Monday, April 2, 2012

It's Me Against the Pollen

As soon as I sent this column off to my editor, the pollen deities laughed at my confident assumptions. They hurled a greeny-yellow cloud of dust at my poor Lauren's face and made me watch as her eyelids puffed up like jumbo, pink marshmallows.  Still, most of this is working helpfully with a few additions I'll add at the end....

Spring is here, but it’s neither the green grass nor the peeping flowers that have convinced me.  It’s the allergies. 
Although I’ve been one of the lucky few who’s never had to deal with seasonal allergies, my kids haven’t been so fortunate.  While I grew up understanding spring as a colorful, verdant season of romping outdoors without consequence, my preschooler is beginning to see a more complex set of circumstances.  Itchy, swollen eyes, a scratchy throat, sneezing fits – she’s coming under fire from spring’s prolific pollens right now.
For the most part, I’ve been utterly clueless as to how I can help her cope.  I know how to treat fevers and stomach bugs.  I can manage scraped knees and sleepless nights.  But, never having been confronted with allergies before, we’ve reached a time of great learning in our household.  Mainly mine.  And mainly frantic.
I’ve been more interested in finding ways to reduce the pollen from her life than in administering medication, but I’m finding that both are important in treating allergy symptoms.  If I want her to remember spring as hopeful and beautiful, rather than torturous and agonizing, I need to get started with some battle plans.
Soon, the yellow dust of pollen will be coating the world.  Porches, vehicles, rooftops – we’ll see the evidence everywhere.  The first line of defense in keeping pollen out of our house will be closing the windows.  That admission is almost painful to adhere to; I love fresh air blowing through open windows as much as I love low energy bills.  But if it will help keep my daughter free of the worst discomfort from allergies, we’ll close up until the world loses its greeny-yellow tint. 
I’ll also have to remember that endless outdoor playing will come with a price in this season.  I won’t keep my daughter locked inside until summer arrives to set us free again – that’s neither feasible nor enjoyable*.  But I will be vigilant about wiping her skin after she’s been outside.  Pollen can build up in hair and on arms just as it does on porch furniture, so I’ll douse my daughter with a wet washcloth as soon as she’s done playing.  We’ll also aim for baths every night to rinse the pollen from her hair and body as much as possible to limit her exposure**.
Indoors, her bedding should be washed more regularly.  It will be helpful to strip sheets and pillow cases several times a week, throwing them in the wash with her beloved blankies to clear them of their pollen buildup.  She carries her blankies everywhere anyway, so it’s very likely that they’re attracting as much yellow dust as she is. 
Overall, allergies in the family will mean a bit more effort in keeping the house clean.  More frequent vacuuming and dusting of hard floors and surfaces will keep the pollen from taking over.  It might also be helpful to make sure our home’s air-intake filters are changed more often and with higher-quality particle traps. 
When the discomfort can’t be alleviated by cool washcloths to itchy eyes or spoons full of honey for itchy throats, I will be unrepentantly ready with children’s allergy medicine***.  Hopefully, these childhood allergies can be either outgrown or at least not made worse over time.  And as always, we’ll be ready with hugs and comfort – sometimes they’re all it takes to help a little one forget about itchy eyes and scratchy throats. 

*Actually, I am keeping her mostly indoors until the worst of the pollen is past.  We venture out in short bursts and wear sunglasses to keep pollen from blowing into her eyes.  And if it's wildly windy, it's an indoor day for sure. 
**Aiming is an understatement: baths are mandatory.  And since this season is particularly bad, Mia's skin is even flaring up with some allergic reactions, too.  On her neck and behind her knees, where the skin is thin, a rashy, itchy mess has developed.  Hydrocortisone cream has helped immensely. 
***This includes allergy eye-drops.  We haven't actually used them yet, but they're in my medicine cabinet, waiting at the ready.  Poor Lauren's eyes are really badly affected this year -- I'll do anything to help her stop digging at them with her fists!

So how do YOU try to prevent or treat children's allergies?  Anything miraculous?  Please share!


  1. This is wierd, but less milk helps keep my itchy eyed one from the worst. (not no milk. Calcium is important too.)

    I love honey. And baths. But not the extra cleaning.

    Both my girls get allergy 'shiners' - they look sleep deprived, with dark, dark circles under their eyes. We resort to medicines then. It takes a week to get fully effective, and we're had to switch types a couple times, but it helps.

    Also - indoor air quality is greatly helped by plants. (some studies show they are better then hepa filters! And cheaper.) The spider plant is one I found that isn't toxic to pets if they happen to eat them.

    1. Those 'shiners' -- I feel so bad for them! I'm glad you mentioned that it takes time for the medicine to build up a little and work at its best, because in the early days, I felt like maybe the Claritin wasn't good enough. Now that we've been at it for over a week, though, it's kicked in well.

      Interesting about the plants! I have one big one and a few smaller ones -- hopefully they're helping!

  2. We take Zyrtec. But Lauren might be too young for that. I have 3 kids taking it daily, plus myself. It keeps the symptoms to minimal discomfort most of the time.

    1. Isn't it sad that 'minimal discomfort' is what we long for at allergy time?! But I'm glad it works for you :) Oh, the cost of daily medicine, though. Kind of makes me wish for summer, which is NOT in my list of favorites!

  3. Zyrtec has one that's listed as safe for kids, but I have heard lots of reports of psycho hyperactivity. I don't know about you, but we already have about enough of that out of our little allergy-sufferer :) Children's Claritin (loratidine) is my favorite once we're ready to go the medication route. I postpone that as long as possible, but at some point they need a break from the madness.

    Close the windows. This is my absolute LEAST favorite part, as I LOVE the fresh air of springtime, but closed windows and no fans when we're at the peak. *sigh* Nobody likes allergies. As I type this I keep getting interrupted by my own sneezing as well as the smaller toddler sneezes from the other room. Ah yes, welcome Spring!

    1. Psycho hyper?! YIKES!! I'll definitely keep that in mind. I bought some Zyrtec when I was worried that the Claritin wasn't cutting it, but I do like the Claritin now. I usually try to postpone, too, but poor Lauren's eyes...sad.

      I hate the closed windows, too. This time of year is usually so fresh and cool and breezy. One year, I remember noting that there was a layer of pollen built up under our kitchen table since I didn't sweep there much. The open windows really let in a LOT of yellow dust. But they're closed this year. The things we do for love ;)


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?