If you or your children are experiencing itchy eyes or nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, or cough… please continue reading.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever (nasal allergies), mimics the symptoms of a chronic cold, but is in fact a very complex immune reaction to specific allergens. Hay fever is very common and affects up to 30% of children in the United States.
Nasal allergies could be seasonal or perennial (last all year-long). Seasonal allergy symptoms occur only during specific parts of the year and are usually caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. On the other hand, perennial allergy symptoms are present year-round and are usually caused by indoor allergens like dust mites, cockroaches, mold spores, and animal dander.
Most people can self diagnose themselves and buy over the counter medication to alleviate their symptoms; however, many times hay fever/seasonal allergies will occur in association with a number of other disorders that require medical attention. Some associated conditions include allergic conjunctivitis, sinusitis, asthma, and eczema.
What are the symptoms?
Head: headache, sinus pressure, and facial pain
Eyes: itchy, watery, and red eyes; crusting of eyes, burning sensation to eyes, eyelid swelling (puffy eyes) and dark circles under the eyes
Nose: nasal congestion and obstruction, runny nose, sneezing, clear nasal secretions, loss of smell, and itchy nose
Throat: post nasal drip, hoarse voice, cough, scratchy throat, sore throat
Other: headache, general fatigue (usually associated to lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep due to nasal obstruction), itching of the palate and inner ear, snoring, popping of the ears, mouth breathing
Why do we get allergies?
An allergen is a harmless air particle that is capable of producing an immune response that results in an allergic reaction. However, it is not allergens themselves that cause your allergy symptoms. Whenever an allergen enters your nose, it interacts with cells called mast cells. If you are allergic to that particular allergen or particle, your mast cells in response will release histamines. It’s due to the release of histamines that you get to experience a runny nose or sneezing. Many allergy medicines use an “antihistamine” in an attempt to control the symptoms histamines cause.
The most common allergens are pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold. In children, clinical allergy develops first to allergens that are continually present in the environment (like dust mites or animal dander) and then to pollen and other seasonal allergens. Allergic rhinitis requires a few years of allergen exposure to develop, it is uncommon in children under two years of age.
Did you know? Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) accounts for about 2 million lost school days per year for kids. It is associated with cognitive and psychiatric issues in children and adolescents, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, lower exam scores during peak pollen seasons, poor concentration, impaired athletic performance, and low self-esteem.
Allergic rhinitis risk factors: family history, male sex, birth during pollen season, early use of antibiotics, cigarette smoke exposure during the first year of life, early exposure to indoor allergen
Overview of non medical nasal allergies treatment
The non medical approach to treatment focuses on avoiding allergens that trigger your allergies. For a lot of people this method alone is enough to control their symptoms.
- Avoid pollen exposure by keeping your house and car windows closed. In general pollen counts are higher in the evening during spring and early summer, and in the morning during late summer and fall. Consider taking a shower, washing your hair, and changing clothes after spending time outside.
- It is extremely hard to get rid of dust mites, you can limit contact by using physical barriers like dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses, controlling humidity, and reducing areas that harbor dust mites. Washing bed linens and blankets weekly (or more frequently) in hot water will reduce dust mite counts. Steam treatments can eradicate dust mites, so carpet steam cleaning is recommended. Also, minimizing the presence of carpets, upholstered furniture, drapes, and stuffed animals would help by decreasing the places that can be colonized by dust mites.
- If you think you have a pet allergy, consider keeping the pet outside or restrict it to just a few rooms in the house. Ideally keep the pet outside of your bedroom. Wash your hands after petting your pet and bathe your pet at least once a week to reduce dander. Aggressive cleaning and the use of a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters is useful as well.
- To prevent or control mold in your house, clean bathrooms and kitchen frequently and avoid the use of humidifiers.
- In order to avoid irritants, do not smoke and do not allow anyone to smoke in your house or car. Stay away from strong odors like perfumes, paint, burning candles, cleaning products, room air fresheners and oils. Also, stay away from wood burning stoves and fireplaces.
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Disclaimer: The content in this blog is not to be considered medical advice and it is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your primary care provider. If you have specific questions, please contact your physician.