It’s almost time for allergy season, but cold season is still with us. If you find yourself or your children constantly reaching for a tissue to wipe a runny rose, how can you tell whether an allergy or a cold is the cause?
One way that adults and children patients respond to a constantly itchy or runny nose is with the allergic salute, the upward swipe of the hand or index finger to rub the nose while sniffing. The allergic salute will be given habitually throughout the day, so it’s unlikely that parents will miss it.
The allergic salute is a not-so-subtle sign of allergic rhinitis, one of most common conditions found in children. Rhinitis is a reaction in the nose that is triggered by the release of histamine in response to irritating airborne allergens. Histamine is a compound that causes the delicate linings of the nasal passages and sinuses to fill with fluid or mucus and become itchy and inflamed.
Allergic rhinitis is particularly common during pollen seasons. Pollen is usually worse in the spring and fall, but it is present year-round in regions where there is no pollen-destroying winter frost. In Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, trees are a major source of airborne pollen from late February through April, grass is a major source from mid-May through early July, and the rest of the year is relatively pollen-free until the following February. Rhinitis can also be caused by dust mites, mold spores, smoke, and pet dander.
One way to tell the difference between an allergy and a cold is that allergic rhinitis may be accompanied by an itchy throat, eyes, or ears, although other symptoms such as sneezing and congestion are similar to those of a cold or other medical problems. Sometimes, people with rhinitis develop another telltale sign — allergic shiners, which are dark circles under the eyes or on the eyelids as a result of constant rubbing in response to itching.
If you or your child is doing the allergic salute on a regular basis or you think that allergies may be the reason for that persistent sniffing, coughing, or runny nose, it’s time to visit your visit your family doctor or pediatrician for a diagnosis. If left untreated, allergic rhinitis can cause daytime sleepiness, nosebleeds, snoring, and mouth breathing, and it can impact how your child performs in school and in social activities.
Your health care provider will typically diagnose allergic rhinitis based on a physical examination and looking at your medical history. Your provider may then refer you to an allergist who can perform tests to determine precisely what allergens may be causing the symptoms.
Once the allergies are diagnosed, the proper treatment can be determined. One of the best ways to deal with allergy symptoms is to steer clear of the allergens in the first place. It is next to impossible to completely avoid airborne allergens, but there are several ways you can reduce the amount of allergens that come into your home from the outside: Keep the windows closed, replace the filters on the vents and air conditioning system, and change your clothes and take a shower after coming in from the outdoors. As for the indoors, keep your pillows, mattress, and box spring in clean casings, and keep pet areas clean.
Other allergy treatment options may include medications such as antihistamines, anti-inflammatory or corticosteroid nasal sprays, and decongestants. Your allergist may recommend a multi-year course of immunotherapy injections if avoidance and medication do not get results. Ask your health care provider about the options that are right for you and your family.
Want to see a provider today for allergy relief? Swedish Express Care is your faster way to well. Book a visit at a Swedish Express Care clinic near you. You can also find a Swedish provider in our online directory or log in to MyChart to book an appointment as a returning Swedish patient.
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