I am blessed with five grandchildren; and two of them are blessed—or cursed—with allergies. I’ve previously discussed food allergies; and this month, we talk about springtime environmental allergies. Once again, I called on my colleague, Mercy Clinic pediatric allergist Dr. Laura Esswein, to share her expertise.

While the yellow dust that gathers on cars and outside surfaces this time of year may look cool to your kids, you’ll have to burst their bubble. This film of yellow, sticky stuff isn’t fairy dust – it’s the tell-tale sign that spring allergy season is underway.

When trees bloom, the resulting pollen (i.e., yellow dust) may cause irritating allergy symptoms such as a clear runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Allergies don’t cause fever and the symptoms are persistent, usually lasting longer than a week. Parents also should take note of the appearance of any nasal discharge, which is usually watery and clear if it’s allergy-related, but more likely to be thick and white when an infection is present.

While it’s hard to keep kids indoors when the weather is nice, you can limit exposure to pollen by taking a few precautions:

- Make your home a safe haven from pollen. Refrain from opening doors and windows when the weather is pleasant as this allows pollen inside. Instead, use an air conditioner to regulate temperatures.

- Avoid extended periods of time outside in the morning when tree pollen counts are highest.

- When kids come in from playing outside, brush their hair and have them change clothes. Just as the pollen sticks to your car, it also sticks to hair and clothing.

- Have your children shower or bathe in the evening so they aren’t sleeping with pollen on their skin and in their hair.

- Your furry friends can carry lots of pollen in their hair, too. Brushing pets when they come inside can help cut down on the amount of pollen in the house.

We can’t completely avoid the outdoors, so the good news is treatment with medication can help manage allergy symptoms. Start with over-the-counter medications. There are many options that won’t make your child drowsy. If that doesn’t seem to be effective, talk to your pediatrician: Prescription anti-inflammatory eye drops and nasal sprays often are effective.

To achieve the best results, start your child’s allergy medication before pollen is present and continue taking it every day throughout the season. Typically, spring allergy season starts in mid-March and peaks in mid-April. However, weather can make a difference. A warm spring could bring pollen earlier and a late freeze could delay the production of pollen. Watch the weather and adjust the start date of medication accordingly.

It’s also important for parents to know that allergies shouldn’t be a free pass to miss school. Talk to your pediatrician if allergy symptoms are interfering with your child’s ability to participate in daily activities.

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