Hay Fever and Fall Allergies
By Dr. Fassil
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is a condition with a collection of symptoms, namely nasal congestion, sneezing and itching that occurs during certain times of the year. Fall, like Spring, brings allergy symptoms for many children. Allergy symptoms are caused by pollens that are circulating in the air. When allergic people inhale this pollen from trees, grass, weeds and spores from mold, an immune reaction is triggered that causes the above symptoms. Allergies usually start in childhood. Some children with allergies also have asthma.
How is Hay Fever diagnosis made?
Usually your child will have nasal congestion and itching around the same time each year, so often testing is not needed. Your provider may also see some physical signs during an examination that would suggest seasonal allergies such as dark circles under their eyes (allergic shiners), a horizontal crease on their nose caused by frequent rubbing of the nose (“allergic salute”), signs of mouth breathing and sometimes pale swollen mucous membranes inside nostrils.
Young children may not complain about itching, but they sniff, snort, clear their throat, cough and sometimes make clicking noises with their tongue in an effort to scratch their throat. They may have difficulty sleeping or concentrating in school. In addition, some children may have difficulty breathing and wheezing.
Treatment of Allergies
- Nasal saline rinses are helpful in removing mucous and pollen from the nose.
- Steroid nasal spray (such as Flonase or Fluticasone) is the best single treatment. The response is not immediate and may take several days to one week to provide consistent relief.
- Antihistamines help symptoms of itching and sneezing. First generation antihistamines (Benadryl) are sedating so they may not be the best treatment for school-aged children. They may also cause agitation, so talk to a triage nurse or your provider if your child experiences any symptoms after using. Second generation antihistamines (Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra) are better alternatives because they do not cause sedation.
- Allergy shots – These may be recommended by your provider if medical treatment is not effective. After the causes of allergy have been identified by skin testing, then diluted serum is developed to be given in shot form in regular intervals so that the patient develops immunity.
- Allergy pills – Similar to the shots, these pills are available for certain allergies and can be given under the tongue. These pills are more effective when there are only a few allergies.
Allergy symptoms can be prevented sometimes by starting medication 1-2 weeks prior to the changing seasonal weather.
Once the leaves start falling and the weather shifts, there are many things that you can do daily to minimize allergic reactions and asthma flare-ups.
- Avoid or limit outdoor activities during high pollen days.
- Close windows in house and car and use air conditioning to cool instead.
- Always have your children wash their hands and face immediately when coming inside. It is a bonus if they can change their clothes, and even better if they can shower right away to remove any additional pollen from their hair and body.
- Use a HEPA filter in your home and vacuum often.
Visit our walk-in clinic at our Annapolis office (Monday to Friday, 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM) to see the next available provider who can quickly assess the severity of a possible allergy and recommend the next steps in treatment.
We wish you a happy and healthy fall!