Pearls of Wisdom: How to Help Your Child Survive Spring Allergy Season

Warmer weather is upon us — flowers are blooming, leaves are sprouting, and grass is growing. But for many, this also means that little noses are sneezing and eyes are tearing! Seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever both describe a condition that develops in children after 4-5 years of age, who have been sensitized to wind-borne pollens from trees, grasses and weeds.

Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose with watery discharge, itching of the nose and throat, and teary eyes, all of which can cause anywhere from mild to severe discomfort.  A child suffering from such allergies may have mannerisms caused by itching of the nose such as wrinkling of the nose, (“rabbit nose”) or rubbing it frequently (“allergic salute”). Dark circles may appear under the eyes resulting from slow blood flow caused by swollen nasal mucous membranes. All of these symptoms combined add up to one uncomfortable child.

Your pediatrician can prescribe medications to control allergies, but the key to alleviating symptoms is avoidance of exposure to allergens and irritants that trigger symptoms as much as you can. The two top seasonal allergy culprits are pollen and outdoor molds. Tree pollen usually is the main trigger during spring, grasses are a summer irritant and ragweed will cause symptoms in the fall. Parents, this means year-round battle with weeds, molds, plants, and more.

What measures can you take to shield your child of allergens while still enjoying the outdoors? Here’s your checklist:

  1. Keep car and house windows closed and if possible, turn on the air-conditioning, making sure it has efficient filters.
  2. Control the timing/impact of outdoor exposure by planning trips when it’s cooler and less windy. NOTE: Hot, dry, windy days seem to be peak allergy days! Also, pollen counts normally peak in the morning, so schedule activities for later in the day to keep sneezing at bay. Playing is often more fun after kids wake up from their naps.
  3. Restrict outdoor activities like camping and hiking.
  4. Keep children indoors when mowing the lawn.
  5. After coming in from outdoor activities, toss dirty clothes in the washer and take a quick shower, especially after gardening or raking leaves.
  6. Request that family members and visitors remove shoes before entering the house or at least wipe them well on a mat.

Unfortunately, staying indoors won’t stop the allergen avalanche because, like the mud that travels inside on kids’ play shoes, pollen is easily tracked inside our homes. Practical ways to reduce indoor pollen include frequent vacuuming, using a double bag and HEPA filter. Remember to keep your child in another room when vacuuming or have them wear a mask. TIP: If a surgical mask seems scary to a tot, have them wear a Halloween or a favorite superhero mask.

For more extreme prevention from severe allergic reactions, choose hardwood floors and tile instead of carpets that trap pollen, dust and molds, replace draperies with shutters or blinds, and install portable HEPA filters in your home (preferably those that have high efficiency particulate air filters).

Appropriate drugs can normally relieve symptoms of allergies in children. Antihistamines are the mainstay of therapy but unfortunately, many of them can cause drowsiness that lessens with continued use. If nasal stuffiness is severe, your pediatrician can prescribe a nasal decongestant for a few days. Be sure to ask your doctor before using over the counter decongestants or nasal sprays, since many of them can produce rebound vasodilatation (dilation or widening of blood vessels) after prolonged use, making symptoms much worse.

Use of nasal saline solution is far safer, either administered by a squeeze bottle or a neti-pot, a device that looks like a small teapot to irrigate the nose. By far, the most effective treatment of allergic rhinitis is topical steroids reserved for children who do not improve after taking antihistamines and decongestants. These topical nasal steroids are safe and are not absorbed into the body.

It may be difficult and frustrating at times to avoid allergens completely. Many kids are in the same boat as yours, but by following simple, practical steps, you and your child can still explore the great outdoors or enjoy your own backyard with little discomfort.

PS:  These Pearls of Wisdom about seasonal allergies also hold true for you!

 

All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site. 
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Dr. Pearl

 

Dr. Pearl Cenon

A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.

One Mom’s Tips for Avoiding Sibling Rivalry

When I had my second child, I wanted to make sure that they would become best friends. I wanted to avoid sibling rivalry as much as possible.

The first thing I did was whenever I talked about the baby it was “our baby” or “her baby sister”. We casually talked about how she was going to be a big sister and she would get to teach the baby lots of new stuff. After my second daughter was born, Princess G, we had her big sister come right away. Princess A was 28 months at the time. She remembers coming to the hospital and meeting her little sister.

When I got home I followed some great advice: don’t always go to the baby first.  If I was doing something for my oldest I would say out loud “Princess G, I will be there in a minute I am helping your sister.” Of course the baby did not understand me but my oldest did.  I think it really helped that I did not always rush to the baby. My oldest felt as though she was just as important. I also used one of the baby’s naps to take the time and play with Princess A. Her favorite memories of that time were when we would play in the snow and then have hot cocoa to warm up. We were never outside more than 15 minutes (dressing took longer, lol) but to her it was an eternity with just mommy. She also got to go on a few dates with Daddy too!

I made sure that things were pretty even or at least appeared even to them.  As they got older I emphasized that we share in our house. They have their special stuffed animal and a doll or two that they don’t have to share but everything else they share. I point out to them that if they share toys then they have a bigger variety. For example, instead of buying them both the same doll, I buy one in blue and the other in pink. They now have different dolls. I knew I was getting through to them when at my oldest birthday she received a present with two Barbie ballerinas in the package and she turned to ask me which one was hers. I told her since it was her birthday she could pick.

BabyLegs Spring 2012
They do argue with each other on occasion but it does not last long. First, they know I won’t be happy and they also won’t like my solution. If they do argue, which is about once a week, it is over a toy or that my oldest wants to read instead of playing. In our house sharing and kindness is how we are as a family. My girls see my husband and me being kind and sharing. My husband and I rarely argue, about twice a year, and we always talk softly and very respectfully.

The best way to avoid sibling rivalry is to treat your kids fair and with love. Things are not always perfectly even but when things are not I ask them what I can do to even things up, and usually they come up with a great idea and everyone is happy!

*Post by Noreen, a BabyLegs Mom.

Home Daycare

When I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I started talking and thinking about daycare for our new baby.  Would we send our child to a home daycare, daycare facility, or find a personal nanny?  We looked into several facilities, interviewed a few licensed home day-cares, and spoke to some friends about using nannies.

One day we were talking to a neighbor. She mentioned another neighbor who was staying at home with her daughter and  was looking for a way to make a little extra money.  We spoke to her and for the first six months our neighbor watched our daughter.  I enjoyed knowing my daughter was staying with someone that had children of her own and treated my daughter as her own daughter.  Unfortunately, our neighbor’s husband was relocated and they moved.  We were considering a daycare facility near our house, but we wanted to make sure our daughter was getting the attention we felt she deserved. I felt like a larger facility wouldn’t be able to focus on my daughter as well as a home daycare provider.  I had also heard a few “bad” stories from a good friend of mine about her facility.

BabyLegs leg warmers for boys

Luckily, a lady we went to church with had an opening in her home daycare around the same time our neighbor had to stop watching our daughter.  We decided to send our daughter to her. Our daughter has been going there for over a year and half. The lady is licensed by the state and has random visits from DHR just like a larger facility.  She has a meal plan she has to follow. She also has a school curriculum she has to follow when the children are old enough.  She only keeps 6 children and none are over the age of 5 or 6 (most leave when going to school).  When she accepts a new baby she likes to try to keep the ages spread out so that she doesn’t have too many little babies.  She has an open door policy. This means we can drop by anytime, unannounced, to check on our kids.  She has been a licensed home daycare provider for 30 years and she kept several of my church friends’ children.

I’m not saying I would NEVER send my child to a facility or that I think that home day-cares are “safer” or  “better” than a facility.  There have been home daycare providers (as well as facilities) that fall short of the expectations the parents have, but I believe that as a parent you have to look into each option and see which one feels right to you.

About the blogger:

My name is Stephanie.  My husband and I have been married 3 years.  We have a two year old daughter, McKenna, and a little boy due in January.

Transitioning to Toddler Bed

We are expecting baby number 2 and decided that it is time to convert our daughter’s bed to a toddler bed (mainly because my growing  stomach is making it harder to get her in and out of the crib).  We wanted the transition to be as easy as possible for us and for her.  We decided to keep her crib and transition it. She was used to the crib and we were worried that a new bed would make the process harder. Her crib was able to be transitioned to a toddler bed by removing the front panel and adding a bed rail. The bed rail was placed in the middle of the mattress so she could not climb in and out of the bed. We also decided for the first few weeks we would still put her in the bed and get her out as if the bed was still a crib. We hoped this way she did not know she could get in or out by herself. We thought that would make the transition easier and she wouldn’t be trying to play when it was bedtime.

On the first night of the toddler bed we read her a book, put her to bed and kissed her goodnight (just like we always did). She noticed the railing was different, but never tried to climb out. We thought it was too easy and expected her to be climbing over the rail soon! We watched on the video monitor and before we knew it she was asleep! The next morning we went into her room and she was still in her bed! We had one successful night in a toddler bed! Whoo-hoo! We continued the same routine every night for about 2 months and never once did she get out of her bed.

Recently, we let her discover that she could get in and out of the bed by herself and she still has not gotten out in the middle of the night. In fact, she LOVES bedtime now because she can crawl into the bed and cover herself up like a big girl! We put a stool by the bed and moved the rail closer to the head of the bed so she could get in and out easier. We don’t let her play in the bed during the day and the only time she gets in the bed is naptime or bedtime—in hopes of preventing her getting up in the middle of the night and playing. The transition was easy and very successful and I believe it was because we slowly changed her routine to get her used to it.

(Here is a picture of her bed the first night we converted it–actually it was the morning after converting it! 

How did you transition your child to a toddler bed? Was it an easy or difficult transition? What were some of the things that you did to make the transition easier?

About the blogger:

My name is Stephanie.  My husband and I have bern married 3 years.  We have a two year old daughter, McKenna, and a little boy due in January.

Baby Sign Language

When I first started my job 7 years ago, I had a co-worker that was learning sign language. I’d always thought it would be neat to know sign language but never learned how. I then found out that she was learning in order to communicate with her 6 month old grandson. I found that very interesting and researched baby sign language.  One day she brought her grandson to work with her and showed us how he would sign “milk” for a bottle, “dirty” if he had a dirty diaper, and even “more” if he wanted more. She told me that it was so easy to communicate with him and that he didn’t cry much because he was able to tell his parents what he wanted. At that moment, I decided when I had children that I wanted to teach them sign language.

Fast forward 5 years to when I had my first child…I’d forgotten about the sign language until a friend of mine told me of a website called “BabySteals.com” (the same awesome site that introduced me to BabyLegs). One day I saw the “steal” was a DVD/CD set called Baby Signing Time and I immediately ordered it!  My daughter was about 13 months old and she was just beginning to talk and I could NOT wait to get her started on signing. Once we received the set I put the DVD in and my daughter was captivated by the children on the screen signing. My husband and I sat and watched as well. The host, Rachel, shows the sign, explains how to properly do it, and then sings a song while various children repeat the sign. My husband and I made sure to use signs when talking to our daughter to teach her. After about a month of watching the DVDs every night, our daughter showed us her first sign. We were walking out of the grocery store one rainy day and our daughter signed “rain”. We were so surprised and happy that we stopped right in the middle of the parking lot in the rain and praised her.

Rain Sign Language

It has been about a year since we started using sign language and our daughter knows about 75 or more signs and her communication is extremely advanced for her age. Our pediatrician was impressed with the way my daughter could sign and thought it was great that we were teaching her at such a young age. We have seen a decrease in temper tantrums even though she is only 2 years old because she can communicate with us better. We started later with her but plan on starting with our son when he is about 3 months old.

Have you used sign language with your baby? What type of results did you see?

About the Blogger:

My name is Stephanie. My husband and I have been married 3 years.  We have a two year old daughter and a little boy.

*Flashcard from BabySignLanguage.