FeaturesApr/May 2014 Issue

Problems with Pollen: Allergy Issues and Supplemental Help

Reactions to pollen can impact learning and behavior.

Flower pollen

ęDavid Carillet/iStock/Thinkstock

Bursting tree buds are a happy harbinger of spring. But budding brings pollen and when pollen is plentiful, problems with attention, behavior and mood are sure to follow for susceptible children.

My office phone starts ringing about the third or fourth week in March, depending on pollen count. “He was doing so well at school—until now,” the parent on the line will moan about her youngster.

Holly’s story was typical. I had last spoken with her in the fall after school had started. Her 9-year-old son, John, had a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and received educational support services because of learning differences. At the time, he had settled nicely into his classroom and was managing well without medication.

“I don’t know what happened,” Holly continued. “The teacher has been thrilled with his progress. But now out of nowhere, the school is calling me almost every day.”

John did not want to do his homework and often seemed to be in another world. Not normally an aggressive boy, he had knocked over one child and hit another within the past two weeks. His increased distraction and uncooperative behavior had escalated to the point where the teacher was suggesting that Holly talk to John’s pediatrician about medication.

Sudden behavior or mood changes happen for a reason. I quizzed Holly about the usual suspects:

  • Did John have a recent illness?
  • Were there staff changes or other major switches at school or with his schedule?
  • Was he being bullied in the classroom?
  • Did he have any other physical symptoms, such as rash, congestion or bowel changes?
  • Had his sleeping or eating patterns changed?

Holly reported that John had been healthy and his school schedule and teacher had not changed. But he was waking up more frequently and had started chewing on his shirt.

Next: Potential Triggers

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