In the spring, the changes in daily temperature and windy weather lead to an unstable biorhythm and can cause reduced body defense. In addition, it is the time of the year when school and kindergarten starts. Hence, children spend more time with their friends, and are more exposed to respiratory infections. Pollen, which is an important cause of allergies, is also more abundant in the spring, so allergic symptoms are also more common during this season.
Children have a weaker ability to control their body functions compared to adults, so they find it more difficult to adjust to rapid changes in climate. Therefore, their health should be managed during seasonal changes.
Conditions that are common in the spring include the common cold, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis, allergies to insects and skin conditions. The common cold is caused by infection of the upper respiratory tract by the cold virus, which is spread by direct and indirect contact with infected persons. Children should be taught to wash their hands when they come back home, as well as brush their teeth. It is best to wear layers of thin clothing to help regulate body temperature, and children should change out of sweaty clothing.
An uncomplicated cold is treated symptomatically and by following precautions. Children should have sufficient rest and stay warm, and the indoor humidity level should be between 50-60 percent. They should also increase fluid intake and the house should be aired frequently. Adults should also avoid smoking indoors. If a fever of greater than 39° Celsius persists, or there are symptoms such as pain in the ears, blocked ears, yellow phlegm and a persistent cough, please see a doctor for appropriate treatment.
Some children suffer from a runny nose, sneezing and coughing during the spring. Many of them are treated for the common cold, as their symptoms can mimic it (including a mild temperature and runny nose). However, allergic rhinitis is characterized by a watery runny nose, congestion, sneezing and itchy and red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis). Children recover from a cold in about a week, whereas eye and nose symptoms due to pollen and yellow dust can persist for the whole season. If your child suffers from the same symptoms every year, your child should see a specialist. It also helps to maintain a clean environment. Clean often, allow fresh air in frequently and wash bed linens and curtains frequently. Have your child wear a mask when going outside, and wash his or her face, hands and feet when he or she returns home.
Children are at higher risk of accidents and allergic reactions to insect bites when they spend more time outside. Bee stings cause local pain, redness and swelling which disappear within a few hours. However, an allergic reaction to bee stings can cause breathing difficulties and hypotension. If this occurs, your child will need to be transferred to the emergency department of the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Make sure that they do not move the affected area, and put ice on it to reduce toxin absorption. Allergic dermatitis due to grass, tree sap and pollen is also common during this season. If your child suffers from contact dermatitis, instruct him or her not to touch anything outside, and to wear long sleeved clothing.
To prevent diseases and stay healthy this season:
― Do light exercise regularly.
Maintain regular sleep and meal times. Do light exercise such as walking to keep up stamina.
― Wash well when returning home.
Wash your face, hands and feet and brush your teeth when you return home to remove viruses, bacteria, pollutants and yellow dust. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes with your hands to prevent viral contact.
― Get enough rest and sleep.
Sleep and rest well to recover body defenses.
― Eat a balanced diet and drink sufficient fluids.
Drink sufficient fluids (water or juice) to maintain appropriate fluid balance. Also, eat fresh fruits, vegetables and spring herbs to increase vitamin C intake.
By Choe Yon-ho
The author is a doctor in the department of pediatrics at Samsung Medical Center and a professor of Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine. ― Ed.