And so it begins. The dreaded sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose symptoms that signal the onset of allergy symptoms is your child. But, before you go running for a Kleenex to wipe that runny nose, you may want to read this.
First, it is important to understand the difference between allergies and the common cold. Symptoms of a cold and allergies can look alike, both including symptoms like runny nose, stuffiness, sniffling and throat clearing, but if your child has these symptoms for more than a week or two, they may be suffering from allergies.
Allergies are triggered by the body’s reaction to substances called allergens, and may include the following symptoms:
|Itchy, runny eyes||Nasal Stuffiness||Nose Rubbing||Throat Clearing|
In children with allergies, the immune system reacts to allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals that trigger these reactions, but for some the effects may be more far reaching than others. Chronic skin conditions, like Eczema, are often signs that allergic rhinitis, commonly known as Hay fever, or even Asthma may develop. Although it is important to note that not everyone with allergies has Asthma, most people with Asthma do have allergies, and when the already oversensitive airways of a child with Asthma come in contact with an allergen, they may trigger an attack.
What to do…
Although there is no cure, with proper care allergies can be controlled. Recognizing which allergens are triggers for your child and limiting exposure to them are critical first steps. Allergy testing, typically skin testing, by a health care professional can help identify exactly which allergens are problematic. For those with seasonal allergies, paying close attention to pollen counts, staying indoors when pollen counts are high, and the use of an air conditioner may help minimize symptoms. For others with perennial allergies, indoor culprits like dust mites, pets, second hand smoke and certain types of molds may be to blame. In this case, avoiding second hand smoke, washing bed linens in hot water on a weekly basis, using allergen-proof zip covers for mattresses, and replacing pillows every 2-3 years may help reduce your child’s exposure. These are simple steps anyone can do to minimize exposure to allergens, but if symptoms persist allergy medications may be necessary.
Because uncontrolled allergies can lead to secondary infections, like those of the ear or sinuses, or make Asthma symptoms worse, it is important to seek proper treatment. Discussing symptoms with your pediatrician is a good place to start. When your child’s condition is properly diagnosed, proper medications and methods of treatment can be recommended or prescribed, including the following
FDA-Approved Drug Options for Treatments of Allergic Rhinitis in Children
- Nasal corticosteroids (Nasonex, Flonase)
- Oral and topical antihistamines (Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, etc)
- Decongestants (Sudafed, Allegra D, Afrin)
- Non-steroidal nasal sprays (NasalCrom, Atrovent)
- Leukotriene receptor antagonist (Singulair)
Another option for children who do not respond to either over the counter or prescription medications may be allergen immunotherapy, more commonly known as allergy shots. These “extracts” contain small amounts of the allergens that trigger reactions in the body, and over time immunity to those allergens are gradually developed.
Recent pediatric legislation has led to increased research and development for children’s drugs and new pediatric information in their labeling. Although allergy medications have come a long way over the past twenty years, in terms of safety, it is still important to read labels and make sure products are approved for your child’s age. The good news is that with proper treatment and by taking simple steps to limit allergen exposure, your child will be feeling better faster than you can say “gesundheit!”