The season for outdoor fun has arrived. But it's also the time when children with allergies and asthma encounter common triggers that can make their days uncomfortable'or worse. In fact, common allergens, including dust, pollen and mold, can trigger asthma symptoms, which can be mild or severe. These include wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, among others. Follow these steps to protect your kids against the worst offenders:
Loss Of Balance
Shortness of Breath
Attention Deficit Disorder
The Problem: Trees, grasses and ragweed release this allergen into the air. Trees pollinate in spring, grass in late spring and summer, and ragweed in late summer and early fall. Most pollen is released shortly after dawn and travels farthest on warm, breezy days. In urban areas, the pollen's effects peakat midday.
The Solution: Try to keep kids indoors during high-pollen periods, and all day when the pollen count is high. A low-pollen count is between zero and 2.4; a high count is between 9.7 and 12. Watch your local weather report daily or
go to www.pollen.com
for the pollen count forecast in your area. Use air-
conditioning set on "recirculate" to exclude much of the pollen and mold from indoor air.
2. Mold and Mildew
The Problem: These fungi are most prevalent from July through late summer. They have seeds called spores, which are carried through the air. Certain spores reach their peak in dry, breezy weather; others need high humidity, fog or dew. The latter group is most abundant at night and on rainy days. Mold can grow on anything moist'leaves, compost piles, grasses and grains. Indoors, top breeding grounds include a damp basement, the shower stall or a leaky faucet.
The Solution: Keep children away from high-mold areas outside, such as piles of damp leaves. Inside your home, address any moisture issues. Although you can clean areas in your home by yourself, it sometimes helps to call in a professional mold-resolution service.
3. Poison Plants
The Problem: Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac grow in wooded areas. Each produces an oil that can cause a terrible skin rash. They are commonly thought to be recognizable by a three-leaf configuration, but that is not always the case.
The Solution: Teach your children what each plant looks like (for descriptions of each, go to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation website at www.aafa.org, scroll over the "Allergies" tab, then click on "Outdoor" and then "Poison Plants'). When children come in from a walk in the woods, wash their clothes in warm water. If they have encountered the plants, scrub off shoes before they step into the house. At the first sign of a rash, wash the affected area with plain soap and cool water, and tell the child not to scratch. Over-the-counter products such as hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can soothe the itching. An oral antihistamine such as Benadryl can lessen allergic symptoms. Applying cool compresses or soaking the area in cool water with baking soda will also soothe the itching. If the rash covers a large area
or is near the eyes, call your doctor.
4. New Locations
The Problem: The concentration of allergens and types of allergens may be different from where you now live, so the occurrence and severity of reactions could change.
The Solution: Try to vacation away from an area with a high concentration of the plants that trigger your child's current allergies. If you move to a new location, things could change. Even if your child currently does not display any allergies or does so for certain local allergens, within a few years the child could develop allergies to plants and other triggers in the new location. If this happens, follow the above steps to minimize symptoms. You also can try an over-the-counter antihistamine. If that doesn't work, see a doctor specializing in allergies. A prescription nasal spray or antihistamine'or allergy shots'may be in order.
5. Insect Stings
The Problem: In the U.S., most "stings''when an insect's venom is released into a person's bloodstream'are from bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. In the Southeast states, you can add fire ants to the list. Most people will develop redness, swelling, pain or itching at the site. But for those who are allergic, a sting can trigger severe and possibly life-threatening swelling over a large area of the body. This reaction is called anaphylaxis. Watch for these signs and call 911:
" Hives, itching and swelling over large areas of the body
" Tightness in the chest and trouble breathing
" Swelling of the tongue
" Dizziness or passing out
" Sharp drop in blood pressure
The Solution: Children, including teens, should avoid wearing bright colors and perfumes or sweet-scented body sprays. These items attract insects. Don't leave food out in the open while picnicking or camping. Keep trash areas covered. Anaphylaxis can be treated quickly with injectable epinephrine, which requires a doctor's prescription. Inject the medication at the first sign of an anaphylactic reaction. Even if the child starts to feel better, take him or her to the doctor right away since symptoms can return later. Children with a known allergy to stings should wear a bracelet alerting others to that fact, and school and camp nurses should also be made aware.
6. Mosquito Bites
The Problem: Most people experience redness and mild itching at the bite site. Those who are allergic also can experience blistering rashes; bruises; large areas of swelling; or more rarely, anaphylaxis.
The Solution: Avoid mosquito-infested areas, such as swamps and places with tall, grassy plants. Have children wear long-sleeved shirts and pants if near a mosquito-infested area. Apply an over-the-counter insect repellent containing 15% or less of DEET. Insects are drawn to areas with standing water, so try to eliminate such areas near your home and avoid them when vacationing.
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