Allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as allergies or hay fever, affects more than 10 percent of U.S. children aged 17 years and under, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The numbers continue to rise.
Allergies stem from an overreaction of your child’s immune system to inhaled particles in the air. Your child’s immune system will attack the particles (allergens) in your body. This process leads to symptoms that resemble the common cold.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
Many children who have allergic rhinitis also suffer from asthma, although the link between the two conditions is not fully understood.
Other symptoms include:
Unlike with a cold, symptoms are not caused by a virus. Symptoms, both mild and severe, can persist for years and lead to related problems such as sinusitis and ear infections. Severity of symptoms can fluctuate throughout the year.
When your child breathes in an allergen, a reaction in the nose triggers the release of an inflammatory substance called histamine. Symptoms can also occur when your child eats a food that he is allergic to. Researchers are not sure what causes the immune system reaction.
If you suspect your child suffers from allergies, you should consult a physician as soon as possible. Signs that your child should see a physician include:
If your child’s allergy symptoms appear to be severe, your child may need an allergy test to determine exactly what she is allergic to.
This can involve skin tests, where the physician places a small amount of an allergen into your child’s skin to see if it causes an allergic reaction. The most common skin test methods include:
Other tests suitable for children include:
In most cases, children will not need additional testing. But in some cases, your child’s doctor may want to do other tests to make sure that another condition isn’t creating the symptoms.
In general, imaging studies are not needed in pediatric allergic rhinitis unless sinusitis is suspected. In such cases, a limited computed tomography (CT) scan of the sinuses may be done.
Allergic rhinitis testing can not only help your child’s physician know whether allergic rhinitis is causing symptoms but can also help the doctor determine the best treatment.
While there is no cure for allergic rhinitis, the condition can be well managed by behavior adjustments and medication.
Physicians advise that one of the best things your child can do is to avoid the substances that cause his allergies. True, it can be impossible to avoid all pollen and other allergens, but you and your child can take steps to reduce exposure. Here are a number of approaches which may help control allergies:
Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine to treat allergic rhinitis. The type of medicine the doctor prescribes will depend on your child’s symptoms and their severity, her age and whether she has another medical condition such as asthma.
Medical treatments for allergic rhinitis include:
Most symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be managed. More severe cases need allergy shots.
Children may outgrow an allergy as the immune system becomes less sensitive to the trigger. But once a substance, such as pollen, causes allergies, it often continues to have a long-term effect.
For general information about children’s allergies:
American College of Allergy, Asthma
This page explains how allergic rhinitis can disrupt your child’s sleep and make her irritable.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
For tips on when to suspect an allergy, an explanation of the difference between allergies and asthma, and advice about things you can do at home to control symptoms:
American Academy of Pediatrics
This site answers many basic questions about seasonal allergies in children.
An allergen triggers an allergy. Specifically, when breathed in, the allergen causes the immune system to release substances (IgEs) into the nasal passages and inflammatory chemicals such as histamines.
At this point, researchers are not sure.
Hay fever results from an allergic reaction to pollen. Plants that cause hay fever are trees, grasses and weeds. Their pollen is carried through the air by wind. However, the type of plant that causes hay fever can vary from person to person. Other allergies occur when a person breathes in an allergen such as mold, animal dander or dust.
Quite often it does. If you or your spouse has hay fever or other allergies, your child is likely to suffer from them, too.
Yes. There is more pollen in the air during hot, dry, windy days. On cool, damp, rainy days, most pollen is washed to the ground. That is why most weather reports now include a forecasted pollen count. You may want to keep your child indoors on days when the pollen count is especially high.
The most common symptoms include:
Symptoms may develop within minutes or hours after your child breathes in an allergen. Symptoms can last for days.
Yes, complications can occur if your child’s condition is not treated. Long-lasting allergic rhinitis can lead to sinusitis, clogged ears and ear infections, sleep apnea and asthma. It can also lead to an overall feeling of malaise.
Most likely, no, there is no cure. Severity of symptoms may significantly diminish over the years, but the condition probably will have long-standing effects.