Seasonal allergies

May 6, 2012 Hema Nirmal, MD, FAAP

Everyone is talking about their allergies at this time of the year, so I thought it would be a good time to write about seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergies occur only at certain times of the year and are usually caused by exposure to pollens from plants, trees and grass. They affect a large number of people of all ages and are seen mostly in urban areas. They are uncommon in children less than 2 years of age. Some patients may have similar symptoms year around and this is usually due to exposure to insects (cockroach), dust mites and animal dander (dogs and cats).

Most people do not react on exposure to these substances, but people with allergies hyperreact to these substances when exposed, and they subsequently develop these symptoms.

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Usual symptoms in children include runny nose, nasal congestion, itching of the eyes, nose and throat and occasionally cough. Sometimes these symptoms may interfere with sleep and thus cause fatigue, fussiness and tiredness during the day.

Testing for seasonal allergies:
Physicians usually examine patients and arrive at a diagnosis from history and their exam. Skin tests can be done by an allergy specialist to determine what the patient is allergic to.

Treatment for seasonal allergies:

  • The best treatment is to avoid exposure to allergens, but this is not usually possible.
  • Saline nasal sprays that wash off the allergens sticking to the mucosa might be helpful.
  • Over the counter medications including antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin may reduce nasal drainage and itching. It is important to consult with your physician before starting children on medications.
  • Steroid nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex may be prescribed by the pediatrician to reduce inflammation and nasal congestion. This can also help with the eye itching.
  • Decongestants help with relief of nasal congestion in some patients. You will need to discuss with your pediatrician before administering these type of medication to children.
  • Allergy shots are an option for severe allergies in adolescents and adults.

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