Spring into good health: Tips for allergies, poison ivy, and tick bites

A boy bends over plants in the woods, holding a magnifying glass in his left hand.
Consider explaining to your child the old saying: “Leaves of three, let it be!” (Images: Adobe Stock)

Spring is here — and so are allergiespoison ivy, and ticks carrying Lyme disease. But that doesn’t mean your family shouldn’t embrace springtime. Here are some tips to help your child best control allergies and avoid (and treat, if necessary) poison ivy and tick bites.

Simple steps and home remedies can tame allergies

Managing spring allergies doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. All it takes are a few easy measures to lessen symptoms: 

  • Have your child wear a hat and sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting in their eyes.
  • When your child comes indoors, have them remove their clothing so you can wash it and remove allergens.
  • Leave shoes at the door so your family doesn’t track allergens through your home.
  • Wash or ask your child to wash their hands and face when they come inside to remove allergens from their skin.
  • Before your child goes to bed each night, ensure they fully bathe and shampoo their hair. This will keep pollen off their bedding.
  • Use cool compresses to relieve your child’s itching or stinging eyes.
  • If your child has severe allergies, encourage them to stay indoors on days with high-pollen counts.
  • Close all windows and, if you have it, turn on air conditioning in your home and car to help remove allergens from the air.

Start allergy medicines sooner rather than later

If your child has a history of seasonal allergic rhinitis (a reaction to breathing in something they are allergic to) start medication before their symptoms develop. It’s much easier to prevent allergy symptoms than to relieve them once they’ve appeared.

Your doctor may recommend these allergy medications to prevent or manage symptoms: 

  • antihistamines (in a pill or eye drops) to block histamine, a chemical the body releases when exposed to a trigger
  • nasal corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages
  • a “quick-relief” asthma inhaler to halt sudden asthma attacks and an anti-inflammatory controller inhaler to improve overall control of asthma

Managing spring allergies and illness

Chronic nasal congestion from allergies makes it difficult to clear germs from the nose, and if your child catches a virus, it can linger there. Talk to your pediatrician if you notice symptoms that don’t respond to allergy medications.

An adult and two children walk hand-in-hand, hiking up a winding, hilly trail in the woods.
Enjoy the beauty of spring while minimizing allergies and avoiding poison ivy and Lyme disease.

Prevent the spread of poison ivy

Exposure to any part of a poison ivy plant can cause a rash, but not everyone is allergic. Children who are allergic should recognize the plant and avoid it completely. Consider explaining to your child the old saying: “Leaves of three, let it be!”

How to treat poison ivy at home

Treatment depends on the severity of the rash. A poison ivy rash isn’t contagious, but it can spread as long as plant oil remains on hands or clothing. The longer the exposure, often the worse the rash.

If you suspect poison ivy exposure:

  • Bathe your child as soon as possible.
  • Wash clothing and pets that might have brushed against the plant.
  • Treat patches of poison ivy rash smaller than six inches on your child’s legs, arms, chest, back, neck, and shoulders with over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1-percent ointment, twice daily.
  • If your child has poison ivy on their face or genitals, call your pediatrician as soon as possible.
  • Give your child Benadryl to relieve itching.

Protecting your child from ticks and Lyme disease

Ticks begin to hatch as soon as the ground thaws. The early spring nymphal deer tick can be as small as a millimeter. Check your child for ticks each night before bed. Look everywhere; ticks love warm dark places like skin folds and the scalp.

Remove a tick by grasping it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling it straight out. To transmit Lyme disease, a tick must be attached for more than 36 hours.

Look for symptoms of Lyme disease

  • a red flat rash that expands rapidly — the rash may look like a bull’s-eye, but not every child with Lyme disease will have a rash
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • generalized fatigue

Call your pediatrician immediately if you suspect your child has Lyme disease. (You don’t need to keep a tick that has been removed from your child.) If the pediatrician suspects Lyme disease, they will prescribe antibiotics. 

Learn about the Allergy and Asthma Program or make an appointment.

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