Spring is on the horizon and if the Upstate’s winter is any indication, allergy season might be especially rough this year.

“We really have not had a consistently cold winter,” said Angela Lombardi, an allergist with Allergic Disease and Asthma Center. “You really need consistently cold, freezing weather to kill most plants that pollinate. I think we will have a fairly significant amount of pollen this spring.”

Lombardi’s office holds a pediatric-only clinic at least one day per week at its Mauldin location. She said even infants can experience allergy symptoms.

“They just can’t tell us what is wrong,” she said.

Children of all ages can experience the classic symptoms of allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. Lombardi said symptoms may include sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery and itchy eyes and sometimes recurrent ear or sinus infections.

“Some kids can present with symptoms of asthma – wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath,” she said. “It can present with exercise intolerance, especially when they go outdoors to play.”

Some children have rashes, especially if they have been playing outdoors in the grass.

If mom or dad have allergies, it is more likely that their children will as well.

“That risk is 30 – 50 percent if one parent has allergic disease,” Lombardi said. “That goes up with two parents. It’s closer to 80 percent.”

But if your house is ringing with the sounds of sneezes, Lombardi offered a few ideas to make life more pleasant until the season passes.

“During peak pollen periods, you definitely want to keep windows closed and use heat or air conditioning,” she said.

Avoid being outdoors when the pollen is higher. Those affected with allergy symptoms should also stay indoors when the lawn is mowed.

After children play outdoors, make sure they don’t carry the pollen with them.

“Make sure he or she removes the clothing they’ve been wearing and takes a shower,” Lombardi said. “It’s a big no-no to sleep in pollen.”

Medications can also help. Some children will benefit with taking over-the-counter antihistamines during allergy season.

“If a child has asthma, it’s a good idea to take his or her inhaler before going out,” Lombardi said.

Changing your home’s air filters regularly can help reduce indoor allergens.

“Freestanding HEPA filters are a good idea, especially in the bedroom,” Lombardi said. “Dust mites live in carpeting and bedding. The filters can remove the dust mites.”

Lombardi said washing bedding at least once a week in hot water and drying it inside can help keep bedroom allergens under control. Pets should not sleep in the bedroom of a child who has allergies and parents might also want to take the step of encasing the child’s mattress and pillow in allergy-proof covers.

“If a child is having recurrent ear or sinus infections or a parent has tried multiple over-the-counter medications and they have been ineffective, or they have asthma symptoms, it can be helpful to see an allergist,” Lombardi said.

Information gained from allergy testing can be useful in implementing the correct environmental controls and for allergy shots, if warranted.

“Not all patients end up on allergy shots,” she said.

If the allergy season is causing suffering, don’t wait to seek help.

“Early intervention is extremely important in the treatment of pediatric patients with allergic disease,” Lombardi said. “The earlier you treat, the more likely they are not to have progressive disease as they get older.”

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