It’s Allergy Season. What’s a Parent to Do?
Sniffles, sneezes, headaches and itching, oh my. Pediatrician Rekha Sivadasan shares the latest on easing allergy symptoms and how allergies impact asthma and skin conditions.
Meet the speaker
Hi, I'm Dr. Rekha Sivadasan. I'm a pediatrician with Cook Children's Pediatrics in Frisco. Today I'd like to talk to you about how to survive seasonal allergies. So yes, it's that time of year. We are spending more time outdoors. Everything's in bloom. And with that, the pollen counts have gone up.
But I do get questions very often about how do you determine whether you are really experiencing allergies versus a cold? Or something more severe? But there are some key differences between infection and allergies. And some of those differences being typically with an infection, an upper respiratory infection, you are possibly having a fever, which you don't really experience with allergies. In addition, you may find that seasonal allergies or allergy symptoms tend to last for weeks, depending on how severe your allergies are. Whereas with an infection, you're usually done within seven to 10 days.
Also, if you find that you're having symptoms around the same time every year, like the spring or fall, that's usually a tip off that that's probably more in the way of allergies.
I'd like to go over some of the common signs and symptoms of allergies. And those would include sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy watery red eyes. For those who actually suffer from asthma, and allergies can pose as a trigger for their asthma, you might have worsening cough or difficulty breathing or wheezing. For those who suffer from skin conditions like eczema, it might actually trigger a flare up where you're now having scaly red patches and the aggravation of a rash. So these are some of the symptoms to look out for.
In terms of treatment. There are so many options available today, many of which are over the counter. The first being antihistamines. And the reason we use antihistamines is to block the activity of chemicals called histamines that are released by our body when we encounter an allergen such as pollen. So the body sees it as something foreign and mounts a response. And our cells release the histamines which then are responsible for the sneezing and the itching that we feel that by taking antihistamines it helps to block that process.
There are decongestants that can be used. So for those who suffer from more of the stuffy nose and nasal congestion and having to breathe through their mouths, they may find that decongestants work for them. Typically, we don't recommend use of decongestants in children under the age of six because of the side effects can cause an increase in heart rate, hyperactivity, difficulty falling asleep. So that may not be the best option for our younger children.
Aside from medications, however, there are preventative measures we can take. So if your child is playing outdoors, there are a few things you can do. As soon as they come back home, make sure they get in the shower, rinse off, get all that pollen out of their hair, off of their skin, rinse their eyes and nose. When you are indoors to try to keep all windows shut and keep the air conditioning on to avoid pollen entering from outside. It is really important to ensure that you clean your air filters, the air conditioning vents as often as possible.
But these are some preventive measures you can take. And as always, we ask that you talk to your pediatrician and come up with the best plan for your child and also, if needed, your child can always be referred to an allergist for further evaluation and treatment. Thank you.