Sneezing Seasons: Recognizing and Treating Seasonal Allergies in Children
Some days allergies may seem to be everywhere: In the news; on the Internet; the topic of friends’ conversations; even on television and in the movies. Yet many parents still have questions. Does my child have allergies? How do I find out? What do I do? (And just what is an allergy anyway?)
This article is an introduction to seasonal allergies and will help you address these questions.
What is a seasonal allergy?
The symptoms experienced by a person with seasonal allergies vary and may affect the eyes, nose, lungs and/or skin. School-age children may be able to tell you their symptoms. Babies and very young children often cannot communicate symptoms verbally but may give you clues by their behaviors.
Symptoms to watch for include:
Eyes (allergic conjunctivitis):
- Itching, “burning” or the sense that something is in the eye
- Visible blood vessels in the white of the eye
- Clear, white or yellow discharge
Nose (allergic rhinitis):
- Stuffy and/or runny nose. The mucus may be clear, white ,yellow or green
- Frequent sniffling, throat clearing, rubbing or wiggling the nose
- Mouth breathing, snoring or being tired during the day
- Trouble hearing or paying attention
- Dark circles or lines under the eyes
Lungs (allergic asthma):
- Wheezing (Note: not all children with asthma have wheezing and not all children with wheezing have asthma.)
- Chest tightness or shortness of breath
- Trouble keeping up with other children in physical education or while playing; reluctance to engage in active play or sports; “running out of air” or always being tired
- Difficulty catching his or her breath, increased effort to breathe
- Hives (pink or red itchy welts that come and go).
Diagnosing seasonal allergies
A diagnosis of seasonal allergies may be suspected based on the types and timing of symptoms (“history”). Examination by a physician may find physical signs suggesting allergy. Often initial treatment is chosen based upon the patient’s history and examination findings.
Consultation with an allergist/immunologist (a physician with specialty training in the diagnosis and care of allergies and asthma) and allergy testing can confirm the diagnosis and identify which specific allergens are triggering your child’s reactions. Allergy testing may involve skin tests and/or blood tests. If asthma is suspected, lung function testing may also be recommended. You can find an allergist/immunologist in your area by visiting the physician referral directory at www.aaaai.org.
A reaction can occur anytime your child comes in contact with the pollens to which he is allergic. The pollens that cause allergies are often microscopic; the plants that produce them generally don’t have showy, fragrant flowers. Which pollens are most prevalent varies with both the time of year and geographic location. Generally, tree pollens are present in spring; grass pollen in summer; ragweed pollen in fall. Pollen season lasts until the first frost. Mold allergy may have a seasonal pattern of allergy symptoms, but the amount of mold spores is tied closely to weather patterns.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. © 1996-2008 American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. All Rights Reserved.
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