Allergy Season Blues

Dr. Jillian Morgan | May 10th, 2014

sneeze pic - CopyGesundheit!… This is the fourth time you’ve said “bless you!” this morning and you haven’t even finished getting your daughter dressed. You’re contemplating scheduling a doctor’s appointment because your daughter has had this “cold” for 2 weeks now. However, what may be really plaguing your little ones are seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that roughly 6.6 million children were reported to have had seasonal allergies in the past 12 months. Seasonal allergies affect 17 percent of all U.S. children.

Many children with seasonal allergies develop them by the age of 10, however the signs of allergies may appear in infancy. On the bright side, most people outgrow allergies by adulthood. There are many triggers for seasonal allergies that include pollen from blooming trees, flowers and grass. While we welcome the warm weather and the beautiful change in scenery and colorful flowers in full bloom, all these springtime changes also usher in watery eyes and runny noses for many.

The symptoms of seasonal allergies can resemble the signs of the common cold including runny nose, congestion, sneezing and coughing. However, if you notice these symptoms at the exact same time each year then what your child may be experiencing are seasonal allergies.

Now that the weather is warm and sunny, your little mini-me is certainly going to want to spend more time outdoors. However, to minimize your child’s symptoms and discomfort from allergies you should remain indoors when pollen counts are high (often reported on the local news), stay in an air-conditioned environment, close all windows, wash hands frequently and change clothes after being outside.

Additionally, your child’s symptoms may warrant the use of allergy medications. While there is no cure for seasonal allergies, but there are treatments that can relieve the symptoms. The most common treatment options on the market are medications called antihistamines. These medicines work by blocking histamine. Histamine is the chemical substance that plays a major role in many allergic reactions. It is the release of histamine that causes the symptoms we see with allergies, like runny nose, itchy eyes and congestion. Common antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (Cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine) and Claritin (loratadine).

While many of these medications are now available over-the-counter, please be mindful that you are only taking the recommended dosage. Overdose is rare but can occur with symptoms that can consist of extreme drowsiness, heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat, headache or seizures. If your child experiences any of those symptoms seek immediate medical attention. If these behavioral and over-the-counter remedies don’t resolve your child’s symptoms then your little one may benefit from regular allergy shots. Your child’s pediatrician may refer you to a specialist like an immunologist or allergist to evaluate whether regular allergy shots are needed.

So, as you prepare to enjoy picnics, afternoons at the playground, and baseball and soccer games please be sure to “Get Your Life” this spring by minimizing your exposure to seasonal allergens like pollen from trees, grass and flowers by staying inside in the AC when pollen counts are high, closing all windows, and changing out of pollen covered clothing. If these preventative measures still don’t eliminate the itchy eyes and runny nose then perhaps a visit to the doctor and an OTC antihistamine may help your child get back to enjoying their highly anticipated spring and summer breaks.

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