Princeton Nassau Pediatrics BlogA blog written by Dr. Leslie Greenberg a board certified pediatrician who practices with Princeton Nassau Pediatrics. The blog will provide some basic information and advice on timely pediatric issues. Please visit Princeton Nassau Pediatrics on the web at www.princetonnassaupediatrics.com
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Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, affects up to 20 percent of people of all ages. In fact, it is believed that as many as 40 percent of children will suffer from seasonal allergies. The prevalence is lowest in children younger than 5 years, and is most uncommon in children under 2. Allergies will tend to peak in school age children and young adults. As children get older, symptoms usually improve. A child has a 25 percent chance of developing allergies if one first degree relative suffers, and an even higher risk if both parents have allergies. Some other common risk factors include: male sex, birthday during a pollen season, maternal smoking in the first year of life, and exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites.
Seasonal allergies are generally characterized by sneezing, clear nasal secretions, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Children also often have post nasal drip, cough, irritability, and fatigue. They may frequently snort, sniff, and cough in an attempt to clear their throats. Some even try to scratch their itchy mouths with their tongues, resulting in a clicking sound. Recurrent red, itchy, dry, and sometimes scaly rashes may also be a sign of an allergy.
There are some classic signs associated with seasonal allergies. The frequent nasal itching that accompanies seasonal allergies often leads to chronic nose rubbing and pushing up of the nose, resulting in an “allergic salute.” In addition, may children suffer from “allergic shiners,” which are dark circles under the eyes due to enlarged blood vessels in the skin. Many children who have allergic conjunctivitis will also have an increase in the creasing of the skin under the eyes. Some children who suffer from allergies at an early age may develop what is know as “allergic facies” with a high arched palate, an open mouth due to mouth breathing, and resulting misalignment of the teeth.
In addition, allergic rhinitis frequently occurs with other allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, and oral allergy syndrome. Allergic rhinitis is also strongly related to eustachian tube dysfunction, which is a blockage of the ear canal. This can result in an increase in ear infections, poor sleeping, and inability to smell. Some children with allergic rhinitis may have frequent headaches as well.
Seasonal allergies tend to peak with tree and grass pollen in the spring and ragweed pollen in the fall. Allergies may also come from mold spores that grow when the weather is humid, wet, and damp in the spring and late summer. For most children, they need at least two seasons of contact with the allergen before they develop seasonal allergies. Symptoms usually develop due to continual exposure to irritants that result in swelling and inflammation in places like the nasal passages.
There are measures that you can take to help manage allergies. When possible, use air conditioners in the spring and summer to reduce exposure to pollen in your home and car. After children have been playing outside, you should have them wash well and shower to rinse pollen from their hair and skin. They should also change their clothes to eliminate prolonged exposure to pollen they may have come in contact with. Children with mold allergies should not play in piles of dead leaves in the fall. Nasal rinses with a salt water solution will help to clean the nasal passages and remove pollen. If symptoms persist or become troubling, your pediatrician may recommend a children’s antihistamine, or prescribe a nasal spray or eye drops.
Seasonal allergies are very common. If your child has symptoms of “a cold” that do not go away, or that seem to come at the same time every year, they may be experiencing allergies. Keep in mind that allergy symptoms may last for months, while a common cold should last for no more than ten days. If your child is under two years old or has a fever, this may be a sign of another illness and you should consult your pediatrician before treating for allergies. Always contact your pediatrician with any questions or concerns you have about your child in order to insure a proper diagnosis.
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