The days grow longer, the blossoms on the trees begin to bud and pop, and the birds finally return from their winter retreats to greet the warm weather. Spring is here! As you and your child watch the world wake from its winter slumber and come to life, here are some important tips for keeping your baby healthy and safe.
Something in the Air
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, as well as springtime colds are common problems for infants and children. Although most doctors believe that babies under the age of three do not suffer from seasonal allergies (a child must be exposed repeatedly over a long period to an allergen before having a reaction), some youngsters do experience itchy, watery eyes or irritated skin before that third birthday.
If your child suffers from a stuffy or runny nose (with clear drainage or congestion), sneezes repeatedly, has red itchy eyes and nose, complains of a sore throat, and has a cough that may be worse at night and in the morning—she may have allergies.
However, if your baby experiences a sudden fever of 101 degress F or higher in addition to respiratory symptoms—runny nose, dry cough, congestion—between the months of November and April (prime flu season), she probably has a flu bug and not allergies. If your baby is under 3 months old and registers a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher, you should contact your pediatrician immediately to rule out an infection.
To treat your baby's cold or allergies, you can purchase over-the-counter saline drops to break up and loosen the mucus and ease congestion. However, you should always check first with your pediatrician before administering medication. To use saline drops, tip your baby's head back and squeeze the drops into your baby's nostrils. After a few minutes, use a rubber bulb to suction out the excess water and mucus. Some babies may become so congested that they have difficulties breathing while nursing. BabyZone suggests trying the saline drops about 15 minutes before a feeding and applying petroleum jelly to the outside of your baby's nose to reduce irritation.
This may cause a temporary gag reflex or breath holding, just as when a doctor uses a tongue depressor, but the intent is to help ease Baby's breathing by clearing excess mucus. Doctors say if this activity seems to be making your baby more uncomfortable, or if it makes the parent uncomfortable doing it, by all means skip it.
Pollen and mold in the air, a common springtime occurrence, can cause problems for children and adults alike. Using a humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer in your baby's room may help alleviate these irritants. "Taking a daily bath at bedtime may help to wash off allergens and prevent nighttime allergy problems," writes Dr. Vincent Iannelli, president of Keep Kids Healthy, LLC. Dr. Iannelli also suggests keeping car and home windows closed to avoid exposure to pollens, "especially on days when the pollen forecasts predict medium or high pollen levels. Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest (early morning for springtime tree pollens, afternoon and early evening for summer grasses). Also, try not to hang clothing outside to dry; instead use a dryer or hang the clothes inside."