The weather is starting to warm up as we head into spring – and with that warm weather comes seasonal allergies. Do you find yourself plagued by itchy eyes, a runny nose, and endless sneezing every time you venture outdoors in the spring? According to the CDC, you may be among the 7.7% of adults (and 7.2% of children) who experience allergic rhinitis – more commonly referred to as hay fever. While seasonal allergies can be unpleasant, there is a lot you can do to reduce your symptoms.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and flowering plants. Unlike environmental allergies (allergies caused by food, insect bites/stings, dust, and pet dander, for example), seasonal allergies are triggered by changes in weather. While about ⅔ of people who suffer from seasonal allergies also suffer from at least one environmental allergy, there are many things you can do to reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms.
Common allergy symptoms and how to treat them at home
Most people with seasonal allergies experience a combination of respiratory symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, and/or coughing) and contact reactions (itchy eyes, hives and/or rashes). For some, these symptoms can be debilitating, while for others, it’s a minor inconvenience. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are many options for treating them:
- Over-the-counter allergy medication: Allergy pills such as Zyrtec or Claritin are often all it takes for people to find relief from hay fever. Sometimes you will need to try different formulations to find the one that works best for you. If pills alone are not enough or don’t work for you, nasal sprays such as Flonase or Nasacort can also offer relief by delivering medicine directly to your sinuses, where most allergy symptoms originate.
- Nasal rinses/Neti Pot: A non-medical option that works for many people is a daily nasal rinse using a Neti Pot or pre-packaged aerosol nasal spray. If using a Neti Pot or something similar, be sure to use filtered water to avoid introducing bacteria into your nasal cavity. You will also need to add saline to the water to avoid irritating the fragile sinus tissue.
- Avoiding allergens: Pollen counts are greatly affected by weather – wind will stir up pollen and lead to worse symptoms, while rain temporarily decreases pollen counts (although after rain, pollen counts generally skyrocket). Check your local weather report daily (or visit pollen.com) to see what the pollen count is in your area. If it’s high, consider staying indoors with the windows closed, if possible. An air purifier can also help reduce airborne pollen in your home, as will vacuuming (although vacuuming can also temporarily increase airborne pollen inside, being diligent about keeping carpets clean can reduce exposure in the long run). Further, if you must be outdoors when the pollen count is high, consider wearing an N95 mask – especially if you are mowing the lawn or doing other yardwork.
What to do if over-the-counter medication and prevention don’t work
For some people, at-home treatment won’t be enough to offer relief from allergy symptoms. If you are still suffering from hay fever despite taking the steps above, you may want to talk to your doctor or an allergy specialist about next steps. You might be offered allergy testing in the form of a blood test or skin test to figure out what is causing your symptoms; in some cases, you may discover that your allergies are both seasonal AND environmental, and treatment may vary depending on what you are allergic to. Your doctor might recommend a series of allergy shots to desensitize you to your allergens or may prescribe a stronger course of medication to keep your symptoms in check.
If you are suffering from seasonal allergies, we are here to help! Reserve a spot online or walk in today – no appointment needed.
Tips for a Safe Spring Break
We’ve made it through the middle of winter, and spring is just around the corner! With spring comes more outdoor activities – and spring break. Read on for some tips for a safe – and fun! – spring break!
Know what to expect
While we seem to be through the worst of this winter’s Covid surge, we aren’t out of the woods yet – and many places still have quarantine and testing requirements for entry. Make sure you research your destination’s vaccine and quarantine requirements well ahead of your departure – especially if traveling internationally. You can also visit the CDC’s travel-health site to find out if you need to be vaccinated (for anything beyond COVID, that is).
Additionally, it is a good idea to research local urgent care and hospital facilities near your destination. If you are traveling domestically, you can also check which local urgent care centers take your insurance. Whether you’re traveling locally or internationally, look into whether travelers insurance is available and what it covers in the event of illness or injury.
Use the buddy system
Stay close to your travel companions and be sure you have a way to contact them if you get separated. You are much less likely to be the victim of theft or violence if you are with other people, so do your best to stick together. Keep a close eye on your friend’s physical and mental health; while vacation can be a time of fun and relaxation, you can also be at an increased risk of physical injury or a mental health crisis. If you see any warning signs of a friend experiencing a mental health crisis, the CDC recommends contacting one of these agencies for help.
Know the laws regarding possession of alcoholic beverages and drugs at your destination. Blood alcohol content (BAC) levels used to determine DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are set at different limits in different places.
Make sure you keep your drink in sight at all times. If you get up from your seat at a restaurant or bar, take your drink with you or be sure you have a trusted companion monitoring your drink.
Be safe around water
According to the American Safety Council, 70% of deaths from recreational water activities involve alcohol, so don’t drink and swim. In addition, drowning is one of the leading causes of death among young children, so it’s especially important to keep a close watch on your kids around the water. Ideally, swim only where there is a lifeguard present and heed warning signs about wildlife, rip tides, and algae blooms.
Children should always use USCG-approved flotation devices around bodies of water. Even children who are strong swimmers can struggle in the ocean (or even in a crowded pool). Remember that drowning is a silent event – oftentimes children drown within reach of an adult. If you see a child silently struggling to stay above the water, they may be drowning. It’s essential to be sure an adult is always designated to watch children in and around water.
Use common sense
Always walk, talk, sit, and act with confidence. Avoid looking like you’re lost. Criminals often target people who look lost or vulnerable. Beware of pickpockets – robbery is one of the most common crimes committed against people on vacation.
Additionally, if you are traveling internationally, be wary of the local water. In many places, it is not safe to drink water from the tap. Generally it is best to stick to bottled water unless you are absolutely sure that the local tap water is clean and safe.
With these safety tips in mind, stay safe, and enjoy your sun-filled spring break….with sunscreen, of course! (And if you are headed to a colder destination, check out our Winter Safety Tips!)
Common Winter Injuries – and How to Avoid Them
Ice, snow, and other weather hazards are ever-present in many parts of the country during the winter months. Even for those of us lucky enough to live in warmer climates, we may find ourselves vacationing in or traveling through the mountains. Emergency rooms and urgent care practices regularly see patients for winter-related injuries – many of which are preventable. Read on to learn more about the most common winter injuries, how to prevent them, and when to seek medical attention.
Slips and Falls
With ice and snow comes an increased risk of slipping and falling when you venture outdoors – a risk that is even greater with kids, who may not be able to judge the conditions outside well enough to be safe. While some falls may seem inevitable, there are many things you can do to decrease your chances of falling in the first place:
- Make sure your kids wear proper footwear outside: Choose shoes with chunky tread or use traction cleats that slip over the sole of your shoe. It may be tempting to wear regular sneakers – or even your slippers – to walk to the mailbox, but taking an extra minute to equip yourself and your kids with proper footwear can save you the pain of a fall and potentially a trip to the doctor.
- Make sure your kids take small steps: If you are walking on ice or packed snow, shoe your kids how to take small, shuffling steps to increase your balance and reduce the risk of falling.
- Keep your hands free and be aware of your surroundings: Many falls happen because kids are distracted – looking down at a phone, trying to juggle school supplies, or simply fiddling with your coat can mean your hands aren’t available to break your fall. Being aware of your surroundings and watching every step can be enough to prevent some falls.
Seeking medical help after a fall
If your child DOES fall, the first thing you should do is stay still and assess them for injuries. If they are able to stand, help them up slowly (or carry them indoors if you are able).
Most falls will result in no more than swelling and bruising. However, bone fractures, sprains, and back pain should be assessed by a medical professional. If your child is unable to move a body part, can’t walk, or is in severe pain, please contact your local urgent care or primary care advice nurse immediately. You will also want to watch for swelling – if swelling does not respond to ice, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen), it would also be advisable to seek medical attention.
Shoveling snow is an inevitable chore in many parts of the U.S. It is also a very common cause of back injuries and heart attack due to overexertion, lacerations from falling on ice, and bumps, bruises, and broken bones due to falling. In fact, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 11,000 adults and children go to the hospital every year for snow-shoveling related injuries. Here are some ways to keep yourself safe and healthy while shoveling snow:
- Be aware of your physical limitations and take breaks: Overexertion can contribute to all sorts of injuries while shoveling snow, including muscle strains, back pain, and heart attack. Take regular breaks when possible.
- Invest in a good snow shovel: Choose one with a long, adjustable handle and a sharp blade on the scoop.
- Shovel smart: Instead of scooping and lifting the snow, which can strain muscles, try pushing it out of the way. Avoid heaving shovelfuls of show over your shoulder, as this can aggravate back injuries.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes: Invest in shoes with heavy tread or use over-shoe traction devices.
Seeking medical help after a shoveling injury
The advice here is similar to dealing with slips and falls: Assess your injuries as best you can before moving, get up carefully and slowly if possible, and seek medical attention if you cannot walk or move a body part or if you are bleeding and cannot get it to stop. If you are having symptoms of a heart attack, please call 911 immediately.
Skiing, snowboarding, and other snow sports are inherently risky activities, but that doesn’t mean that injuries are inevitable. There are many things you can do to reduce the risk and severity of injuries.
- Invest in the proper gear: A well-fitting helmet, gloves, and boots are your first line of defense against snow sport injuries. If you have children participating in winter sports, wrist guards can also be a great way to protect against broken bones due to falls. With very young kids, a harness with a leash or handle to help slow them down as needed is advisable.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Many accidents happen due to collisions between two or more people. Always yield to uphill traffic and be aware of merging trails when skiing or snowboarding. Scan ahead for patches of ice, rocks, and other hazards
- Know your limitations: If you are new to the sport, consider signing up for some lessons so you have a strong foundation and the ability to control yourself. If you are a beginner, stick to easier ski/snowboard runs and always stay within the boundaries of the ski area.
- Use the buddy system: It’s always a good idea for kids to ski/board with an adult or a group so that if they are injured and can’t move, the other can go for help.
- Know where to go for help: Most snow resorts have medical personnel stationed at the top of chair lifts – and if not, there will be staff at the top and bottom of each chair that can use their radio to request help. When you get off at the top of a lift, make a mental note of your starting location and your general route so you know where the closest staff is. Keep a run map with you at all times in case you lose your sense of direction.
Seeking medical help after a snow sports injury
If you injure yourself while skiing or snowboarding, it is important to get help as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of hypothermia. If you are alone and unable to move, get the attention of others by yelling and waving your arms. If you are on skis, stick them in the snow in an upright “X” position; on a snowboard, stick it into the ground straight up. This will make you more visible to those coming down the hill, which will reduce the risk of a collision (which is the last thing you want when you are already injured!). Once you are able, you’ll need to get to the closest ski lift. Once there, staff members can radio for help. Luckily, many resorts have medical facilities onsite where they can treat minor and severe injuries. Once you have been stabilized and are off the mountain, contact your primary care provider or make an appointment with urgent care to address any lingering issues.
If you find yourself suffering from a weather-related injury, head to PedsNow for convenient testing and treatment. We’re here to care for you.
Acute bronchitis is a respiratory infection that typically affects the bronchi, which are the two tubes that allow air to travel from your mouth to your lungs. Your child may experience this condition if they have an upper respiratory tract infection (URI) which causes inflammation and irritation in your airways. This means that they are producing more mucus than usual to protect themselves from irritation.
Acute bronchitis generally lasts for a short time – most people get over the worst of it in a few days, although the cough can linger for weeks. This condition is distinct from chronic bronchitis, which is caused by constant irritation such as that caused by smoking.
The symptoms of acute bronchitis include:
- coughing (often worse during the night and can last for up to three weeks)
- chest discomfort
- sore throat
- hoarseness/loss of voice
While bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics, many cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics. In some situations, people develop complications from bronchitis, such as pneumonia, which may require hospitalization.
How to Avoid Acute Bronchitis
One of the best ways to avoid your child getting this condition is by keeping up with the latest CDC recommendations for Covid vaccination and flu shots. This will help them avoid getting a URI in the first place. But if they do begin to come down with bronchitis, be sure to seek treatment for your child right away.
Bronchitis and Covid-19
Bronchitis is a secondary infection – meaning it usually follows an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus (such as influenza, RSV, or a coronavirus). Bronchitis will not cause you to get Covid, but since Covid is a viral respiratory illness, it can cause bronchitis. Getting bronchitis following a Covid infection will increase your child’s chances of developing complications that could require medical care.
If your child has Covid symptoms, please consult with their doctor and consider a Covid test. If they develop symptoms of bronchitis following a Covid diagnosis, you should monitor for the symptoms listed above and begin treatment for bronchitis.
How to Treat Acute Bronchitis
Usually, the infection will go away on its own. To help ease the symptoms, you should make sure your child:
- Gets lots of rest
- Stays hydrated (make sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol)
- Uses over-the-counter pain relievers and cough medicine as needed
- Has a humidifier when they sleep or have them sit in a steamy bathroom
When to See a Doctor
Call your child’s doctor if they:
- Have a cough that:
- Brings up blood or mucus that thickens or darkens
- Keeps them awake at night
- Lasts more than 3 weeks
- Causes chest pain
- Has a barking sound and makes it hard to speak
- Have trouble breathing
- Have foul-tasting fluid in your mouth
- Have a fever over 100.4 F
- Experience wheezing or shortness of breath
- Have unexplained weight loss
If your child has symptoms of bronchitis or COVID-19, head to PedsNow for convenient testing and treatment. We’re here to care for you.