Ah-Chooo! Spring is here and so are Seasonal Allergies!
Warmer weather, longer days, trees budding, flowers blooming—all signs that Spring is finally here. Unfortunately for many children and families, symptoms such as sniffling, sneezing, sore throat, and watery, itchy eyes are also making an appearance. It’s time for Seasonal Allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis are allergy symptoms that occur during certain times of the year, usually when outdoor molds release their spores or when trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants. The immune system of people who are allergic to mold spores or pollen treat these particles (called allergens) as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms are more common in children exposed to second-hand smoke, air pollution and pets.
Seasonal allergies can begin at any time, but they usually develop by 10 years of age and reach their peak in the early twenties with symptoms often disappearing later in adulthood. If your child develops a “cold” at the same time every year, seasonal allergies might be to blame. Symptoms include:
*sneezing *nasal congestion
*itchy nose and/or throat *clear, runny nose
*sore throat and coughing
Children also often demonstrate the “allergic salute”—a common habit of allergic children which consists of rubbing their nose upward due to itching, which results in a small crease in the skin of the lower part of the nose and “allergic shiners” which are dark circles under the eyes caused by nasal congestion.
Seasonal allergies aren’t just inconvenient, they can affect your child’s performance in school. Studies done in the UK (published in 2007) showed that seasonal allergic rhinitis affected performance on national exams. Children who showed symptoms of allergic rhinitis were 40% more likely to have dropped a grade on the exams. In addition, uncontrolled allergies can put your child at increased risk for secondary sinus infection, cause poor concentration during school and can make asthma symptoms worse.
Allergy medication can help control symptoms. For mild symptoms, over-the-counter medications are a good option. Prescription medications include nasal steroid sprays and some of the newer non-sedating medications. To be effective, these medications should be taken every day during the allergy season—they are much less effective if only taken on an as needed basis. Consult with your child’s healthcare provider to determine which medication is best for your child.
The BEST treatment for allergic rhinitis is to avoid the irritants causing the allergic response. In addition, there are several measures you can take to lessen allergy symptoms:
*Keep windows CLOSED, especially at night. Pollen levels are highest early morning and evening hours. Use the air conditioner instead of opening windows.
*Have your child shower and change clothing before bed time.
*Have your child shake out their hair and wash hands and face everytime after coming inside to remove pollen.
*Wash bedding at least every 1-2 weeks.
*Monitor pollen counts and air quality reports; plan inside activities on high pollen and/or low air quality days such as OZONE alert days.
*Change air filters in the heater and ac every 6 months. Consider using HEPA filters.
*Try some saline. Non-medicated saline nose drops and eye drops to help rinse pollen out of your child’s eyes and nasal passages.
*Talk to your pediatrician. Be sure that allergic rhinitis is the correct diagnosis and ask advice for treatment options.