Dealing with seasonal allergies
How do you know if your child has mild hay fever or more serious allergic reaction that may require medical help?
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is one of the most common allergic reactions, particularly in the spring. Sometimes it’s just a sniffle here and there, but other times it can become more serious, resulting in days off school.
Seasonal allergies, sometimes called “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are allergy symptoms that occur during certain times of the year, usually when outdoor moulds release their spores or trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilise other plants.
The immune systems of people who are allergic to mould spores or pollen treat these particles (called allergens) as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals that causes allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergies can start at almost any time, but they usually develop by 10 years of age and reach their peak in the early twenties, with symptoms often disappearing later in adulthood.
Signs and symptoms
Allergy symptoms, which usually come on suddenly and last as long as a person is exposed to a particular allergen, can include:
• itchy nose and/or throat
• nasal congestion
• clear, runny nose
These symptoms are often accompanied by itchy, watery, and/or red eyes, which is called allergic conjunctivitis. If your child develops wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to these symptoms, the allergy may have progressed into asthma.
There is no real cure for seasonal allergies, but it is possible to relieve symptoms. Start by reducing or eliminating exposure to allergens. During allergy season, keep windows closed, use air conditioning if possible, and stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
Have your child wash hands or shower and change clothing after playing outside. And don’t allow a child with seasonal allergies to mow the lawn (this tends to kick up pollen and mould spores).
If reducing exposure isn’t possible or is ineffective, medicines can help ease allergy symptoms. They may include decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal spray steroids. If symptoms cannot be managed with medicines, the doctor may recommend taking your child to an allergist or immunologist for regular allergy shots (immunotherapy), which can help desensitise kids to allergens.
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