Survival Guide to Seasonal Allergies
by Natalia Darling PA-C
The weather is starting to get warmer, which means that soon trees will begin budding and flowers will begin emerging and we will be moving into the spring season. For many this is a welcome relief from the cold winter season but for almost 6 million children in the USA suffering from seasonal allergies the advent of spring brings sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, coughs, and itchy and irritated sore throats and post nasal drip. Seasonal or spring/fall allergies, interchangeable with the terms hay fever or allergic rhinitis are all synonyms for a commonly experienced reaction to the weeds, grasses, pollens and trees in our outdoor environment, with symptoms that include but are not limited to;
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, ears, eyes, mouth
- Red watery eyes
- Swelling around eyes
- Post nasal drip
Frequently asked Questions
What does the word rhinitis mean?
Rhinitis is a fancy medical term that means inflammation of the nasal passageways. One of the hallmarks of hay fever/allergic rhinitis is that the nasal passageways become swollen, irritated and inflamed which is often the source of most misery and symptoms when it comes to allergies.
How are allergies diagnosed?
Oftentimes we can diagnose allergic rhinitis by the history you give us of symptoms and on physical examination. Medical tests (Done at an allergists office) can help to confirm the diagnosis and identify the particular allergens if necessary.
How do I reduce my child’s exposure to pollen?
- Avoid exposure to the outdoors when the pollen count is the highest- use websites or apps such as pollen.com or weather.com to get pollen counts for the day.
- Keep your windows closed during the pollen season. When driving, also be sure to close windows and use air conditioning, and make sure that your car is set to circulate air from within rather than pulling it from outside.
- Start taking allergy medicines before pollen season begins, and take them for the whole pollen season versus of on an as needed basis. For spring allergies, we generally recommend starting medicines around the start of spring and continuing them until Memorial Day.
- Wash hands and face after entering the house when playing outside. Some people will even change out of the clothes they wear outside
- Wear a hat when playing outside, and remove it when your child comes indoors
- Shower and wash hair each night to keep allergens from getting into your bed sheets
- Use allergen protective mattress and pillow covers
How do I treat seasonal allergies
To fully combat most mild cases of seasonal allergies, allergists generally recommend a combination of the three strategies in addition to the environmental controls, preventative measures, and ways to avoid triggers listed above.
- Intranasal corticosteroids– Considered to be the FIRST line treatment. Studies have shown that they are more effective than oral antihistamines for treatment. Intranasal corticosteroids work to counteract and decreased the inflammation in the nose that causes sneezing, congestion, post nasal dip leading to coughing, and itching. These nasal sprays have very few side effects, aside from causing bloody noses. To prevent bloody noses, it is important to administer correctly- point the spray of medicine towards the eye or ear, rather than the middle of the nose. Some OTC versions are Flonase Sensimist, Flonase Allergy Relief, and Rhinocort Allergy
- Antihistamines– Antihistamines can be short acting such as Benadryl and used every 6-8 hours, (click here for dosing), or long acting, and dosed once or twice a day. Short acting antihistamines have the drawback of causing more side effects of drowsiness, so we generally recommend the long acting versions such as zyrtec, claritin or allegra for use over extended periods of time.
- Nasal Saline/nasal washes– Rinsing the nose with a salt water wash can be helpful, particularly helpful if you are experiencing post nasal drip, sneezing, dryness and congestion. It works to directly help to rinse allergens and irritants out of the nasal passageways, and can be done once or twice a day if symptoms are severe. It is challenging to get a four year old to do a Nasal wash, so instead you can use nasal saline sprays, although they are not as effective.
Did you know?; We carry many of the medicines mentioned above in our Instymeds machine, so next time you are in the office stop by and pick some up. Our nurses can help you with dosing!
Call us at (301) 279- 6750 to receive further advice or to schedule an appointment for evaluation regarding your child’s seasonal allergic rhinitis