Dr. Joyce Rabbat
Loyola University Health System
Each season brings with it a different burden of pollen. In the early spring the trees predominate, and we are already seeing high tree pollen levels. The late spring/early summer time is largely due to grass pollen. In the late summer and fall, ragweed and other weeds pollinate. But we also have to worry about mold, which is a common allergy trigger. Mold counts also begin to rise in the spring, and hit their peak in the fall.
If you know what your child is allergic to, you can take precautionary measures to decrease your child’s exposure to the allergens, and treat their symptoms appropriately. Knowing their allergies can often help us guide our therapy and individualize treatment for each person.
It’s much harder to control your exposure to outdoor allergens than indoor allergens, but if you know what your child is allergic to, and understand common patterns or principles related to pollen you can decrease the burden it has on your child. Some tips we advise are keeping windows and doors closed when pollen counts are high, running the air conditioner to filter out some of the pollens, staying inside if possible between 5-10 a.m. when pollen counts are highest, washing clothes and taking a shower after being outdoors, bathing animals regularly because pets can bring pollen into the home and follow pollen counts via Loyola’s Gottlieb Allergy Count on Twitter @GottliebAllergy
After playing outside, use a nasal saline irrigation to help flush the pollens from your nasal and sinus passages, so the inflammation doesn’t ensue. Many allergy symptoms will respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin. Sometimes these measures are not enough, and prescription medications such as nasal sprays, allergy pills or eye drops are needed. Sometimes your doctor will also recommend allergen immunotherapy, commonly referred to as “allergy shots,” which can change their immune response so they’re less allergic overall.
A common allergy symptom is itching, especially of the nose, palate, throat, eyes and even ears. Other symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, watery eyes, redness of eyes, or dark circles under the eyes are commonly seen. Some kids with allergies also have asthma, and their asthma symptoms may flare, resulting in shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Some people also present with frequent upper respiratory infections, sinus infections or ear infections if their allergies are left untreated. Interestingly, some patients may also have food allergies that are associated with their nasal allergies. All of these symptoms should alert you to see an allergist and to get tested.