As things are beginning to sprout and bloom in Utah, many seasonal allergy sufferers are bracing themselves for the symptoms that often come along each spring. These include runny nose, post-nasal drip, nasal congestion, nasal itching and sneezing. This constellation of symptoms is known as allergic rhinitis in the medical world (I kid you not, I just sneezed while typing this sentence, how’s that for ironic?). If symptoms are mild, they are just annoying, but tolerable. However, if symptoms are severe, they can disrupt daily life and make life miserable. Children, like adults, can also suffer from seasonal allergies. If you suspect this in your child, keep reading along for more information on how to tell if your child may be suffering from seasonal allergies and what you can do to help them.
Allergic rhinitis can be categorized based on the temporal pattern of triggering allergens, the frequency and severity of the aforementioned symptoms. For example, temporal patterns include seasonal (tree or plant pollens at certain times of the year), perennial (year-round allergens such as dust, mold), and episodic (environmental exposures not typically experienced in one’s own home or visiting a home with pets). Frequency of symptoms is divided into intermittent, (< 4 days per week and < 4 weeks per year) and persistent (>4 days per week and > 4 weeks per year). Finally, severity can be categorized by mild (when symptoms do not interfere with activities of daily living) to severe (when symptoms interfere with activities of daily living).
So what causes these annoying symptoms of allergic rhinitis? Well, in someone with allergies, whenever his or her body comes into contact with whatever his or her allergic trigger is (pollens, dust, pet dander, etc.), the body releases many compounds, one of which is called histamine. Histamine causes nasal swelling, watery eyes and runny nose. Other symptoms include itchy eyes, nose and mouth and sometimes a rash on the skin (hives).
If any of the above sounds familiar, it may be helpful to bring your child into his or her primary care provider (PCP) to be evaluated further. Seeing your child’s PCP is always the first step in managing his or her allergic rhinitis. Most mild to moderate seasonal allergies can be effectively be managed by your child's PCP. At your child’s visit, his or her PCP will get a detailed history and perform a thorough physical examination. If it seems your child is suffering from seasonal allergies, your child's PCP will often begin empiric treatment with an over-the-counter antihistamine. An antihistamine is a medication that blocks that annoying compound your child’s body releases in response to an allergen, histamine. Typically, these medications work well for allergic symptoms, but they may cause drowsiness in some, so often times, your child's PCP will recommend giving it to your child before bed. In addition, he or she will advise your child to avoid known allergic triggers, as that is a huge part in managing allergic symptoms. Finally, depending on the severity of your child’s allergies, or if your child concurrently suffers from asthma, eczema, or food allergies, he or she may refer you to a pediatric allergic specialist for further evaluation, testing and management.
The good news is there are ways to treat allergic rhinitis that are safe and effective for children. If you are concerned that your child may have allergic rhinitis or any other allergies for that matter, give your child’s PCP a call to schedule an appointment. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us at ABC Pediatrics for any questions regarding your child’s health. We are happy to help! Please see below for some links for more information on seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Information presented adapted from:
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Seasonal Allergies.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Allergy Tips.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Diagnosing Allergies.
American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. Clinical Practice Guideline: Allergic Rhinitis.
Mary-Faith Fuller, CPNP
I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has worked at ABC Pediatrics since January 2014.