By Scripps Health
After a very wet winter, spring is in full bloom – and for children with environmental allergies, that may mean itchy noses, watery eyes, congestion and other allergy symptoms. Allergic rhinitis, which is more commonly known as nasal allergies, is extremely common in children.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 50 percent of kids age 6 to 18 are sensitive to one or more allergens in the environment.
“Often, allergies, asthma and eczema are interrelated and can run in families,” said Shaun Berger, M.D., a pediatrician with Scripps Clinic Rancho San Diego. “You want to control your asthma and allergies so they don’t control you.”
Nasal allergies don’t happen all of a sudden. Rather, they develop over time; the body becomes sensitized through multiple exposures to a given allergen.
While spring may be a prime time for allergens to bloom, many people experience nasal allergies year-round. Grass and molds are among the most common allergens.
Symptoms of nasal allergies may resemble a common cold symptoms, such as a runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion and a scratchy throat. However, allergies do not cause a fever, and their symptoms often persist for weeks or months.
Without treatment, allergies can lead to other health problems.
Chronic or long-term congestion in the airways and nasal passages can make it difficult to breathe, which can affect sleep quality; tired kids may be more irritable and less attentive in school. In kids with asthma, nasal allergies may also trigger attacks.
Fluid buildup in the ears can cause stubborn infections, decreased hearing, slowed speech development or language delays.
Allergens exist indoors, as well. Dust mites, for example, infest pillows, mattresses and bedding, so it can help to wash bedding weekly in hot water, and get dust mite-proof encasements for mattress and pillows.
Stuffed animals, another dust mite magnet, can be washed in hot water or put in the dryer for 30 minutes once a week.
Be sure to follow the directions closely and use distilled water, not tap water, to mix the saline solution. Pre-mixed saline nasal sprays are another option.
If you suspect your child has allergies, your pediatrician can help relieve symptoms.
“Treatment is often a multi-pronged approach that depends on the individual and what they have already tried,” Dr. Berger said. “There are things you can do to control your exposure, but often patients are beyond that and need some type of medication.”
Talk to your pediatrician before using any medications, even over-the-counter, to make sure you’re using the right treatments for your child.
—“To Your Health” is a column by the physicians and staff of Scripps Health. For more information, please visit scripps.org/sdcnn or call 619-319-9379.