Sometimes called “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are allergy symptoms that occur during certain times of the year, usually when outdoor molds release their spores or trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants.
The immune systems of people who are allergic to mold spores or pollen treat these particles (called allergens) as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals that causes allergy symptoms.
People can be allergic to one or more types of pollen or mold. The type someone is allergic to determines when symptoms will occur.
Signs and Symptoms
If your child develops a “cold” at the same time every year, seasonal allergies might be to blame. Allergy symptoms, which usually come on suddenly and last as long as a person is exposed to a particular allergen, can include: Sneezing, itchy nose and/or throat, nasal congestion, clear, runny nose, coughing.
These symptoms are often accompanied by itchy, watery, and/or red eyes, which is called allergic conjunctivitis. If your child develops wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to these symptoms, the allergy may have progressed into asthma.
Seasonal allergies are fairly easy to identify because the pattern of symptoms returns from year to year following exposure to an allergen.
Talk with your doctor if you think your child might have allergies. The doctor will ask about symptoms and when they appear and, based on the answers and a physical exam, should be able to make a diagnosis. If not, the doctor may refer you to an allergist for blood or allergy skin tests.
Even if a skin test or a blood test shows an allergy, a child must also have symptoms to be definitively diagnosed with an allergy. For example, a child who has a positive test for grass pollen and sneezes frequently while playing in the grass would be considered allergic to grass pollen.
There is no real cure for seasonal allergies, but it is possible to relieve symptoms. Start by reducing or eliminating exposure to allergens. During allergy season, keep windows closed, use air conditioning if possible, and stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
Have your child wash hands or shower and change clothing after playing outside. And don’t allow a child with seasonal allergies to mow the lawn (this tends to kick up pollen and mold spores).
If reducing exposure isn’t possible or is ineffective, medicines can help ease allergy symptoms. They may include decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal spray steroids. If symptoms cannot be managed with medicines, the doctor may recommend taking your child to an allergist or immunologist for regular allergy shots (immunotherapy), which can help desensitize kids to allergens.
If you are concerned about your child’s seasonal allergies, contact us. It is better to be safe than sorry.
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About Pediatrics of Florence
We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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