My son has seasonal allergies, what are the best ways to reduce his symptoms?

Allergic rhinitis (AR), commonly referred to as nasal allergies, seasonal allergies, or environmental allergies, is one of the most common conditions affecting children.  It is estimated that up to 40% of all children have symptoms consistent with allergic rhinitis.  AR is an inflammatory reaction in the nasal passages in response to environmental triggers.  While the vast majority of cases of AR are rarely serious, the chronic daily symptoms can be very taxing on a child and their parents.

Some of the most common triggers for allergic rhinitis:

  • Dust (dust mites)
  • Pet dander
  • Cockroaches
  • Mold
  • Pollen

What are the symptoms that my child may show if they have allergic rhinitis?

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can vary from child to child, even within the same family.  Family history can be one of the biggest predictors for allergic rhinitis.  A child has about a 30% risk of developing AR if one parent also has allergies and up to 70% if both parents have allergies.  Also, children who had eczemaas an infant have a 70% chance of having allergic rhinitis.

Some of the common symptoms in children with allergic rhinitis:

  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy eyes or nose
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

Children with allergic rhinitis may constantly rub their nose, have the sniffles, and/or can have dark circles under their eyes.

Allergic rhinitis can develop at any age, with around 80% of affected individuals showing symptoms by age 20.  The majority of children present with symptoms around age 3-6 years.  This means that just because your child did not have symptoms a month or year ago, doesn’t mean that they can’t develop allergies later on.  The main reason for this is a need for repeated exposure over time (sensitization) to an allergic trigger (as above).  On the bright side, many children can grow out of their allergies over time.

How can I keep my child’s room and play area free of dust mites and other allergens?

There are several steps which you can take to help decrease the amount of allergens that can trigger symptoms.  Continuously avoiding environmental allergens is nearly impossible and even with the best medical treatments, if families don’t take steps to protect the house, symptoms are likely to recur.  All of these methods can be found in various stores in your area or online.

  • Use dust mite proof cases on pillows, mattresses, box springs, comforters.
  • Use filters (with high dust ratings) over air vents to prevent dust from entering the room.
  • Wash bedding in hot water every 1-2 weeks or use a laundry additive that controls dust mites.
  • Remove carpet from bedroom and play areas, opt instead for throw rugs which can be cleaned easier.
    • If using carpet or throw rugs, clean & vacuum them with a dust mite spray/powder.
  • Choose leather, wood, or vinyl furniture.
    • Dust mites are more prevalent on microfiber or cloth furniture.
  • Keep room humidity at 50% or less.
  • Avoid heavy drapes (they trap dust), use shades or blinds on windows instead.
  • Use high quality HEPA air filter to remove allergens which are easier blown around the room.

How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?

Most children are diagnosed by their pediatrician or an allergist by a simple history and physical exam.  In some cases, allergy testing can be performed via a blood test (RAST test) or in some cases, skin prick testing.  Discuss with your pediatrician if testing for common allergens is right for your child.

Food for thought: Except for extremely rare circumstances, food allergies are nota cause of allergic rhinitis.

What treatments are available?

Aside from the preventative measures listed above, there are numerous treatments available to help control symptoms of allergic rhinitis.  These include nasal sprays which can contain a steroid or anti-histamine, eye drops, or various oral medications.  Discuss with your pediatrician which medication or combination of medications is right for your child.

Many allergy medications are available over-the-counter, but it is important to consult with your doctor prior to beginning any new medication.

In certain moderate to severe cases, children can be treated with allergy shots (immunotherapy) to improve and potentially eliminate their symptoms.  Ask your pediatrician if a consult with an allergist is appropriate for your child.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis is paramount.  While the majority of children could “just deal with it”, reducing the inflammation that is present in the nasal passages of people with allergic rhinitis can improve sleep quality, snoring, and focus in school.

For more information on allergies or allergic rhinitis, please consult with your physician.  Always consult with a physician prior to starting any new medication, even if it is over-the-counter.

Follow us on twitter: @Peds_doc