These allergies are the body’s abnormal response to substances in the environment that generally are harmless, and that response may include sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and even difficulty breathing. Identifying the cause and treating it is the primary line of defense.
But, what about little ones — can they suffer as much as adults? Pediatricians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say yes, even children get allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.
“It generally takes two or three seasons to sensitize to seasonal allergens such as pollens. At 2 or 3 years old, they might be able to develop seasonal allergies. However, kids can develop perennial allergies earlier than that, maybe after the first year, to house dust mites, animal dander, mold, etc.,” says Suthida Kankirawatana, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Pediatrics Division of Allergy and Immunology.
Kankirawatana says nasal congestion, drainage, sneezing and nasal itching are primary symptoms, and parents may notice a relationship between the onset of these and a child’s exposure to an allergen.
If a child’s allergy symptoms are persistent, a pediatrician can test to isolate the cause. “Allergy testing can be done in two ways— with a skin prick or a blood test. Both tests are pretty reliable and comparable,” Kankirawatana explains.
It’s much easier to limit exposure and control the symptoms if the allergen is identified, Kankirawatana says. If that is not possible, there still are ways to obtain relief such as
anti-histamines, including loratadine, cetirizine and fexofenadine, and nasal corticosteroid sprays. And other long-term options also exist, she says.
“Allergen immunotherapy or allergy shot is the only curative treatment for allergic rhinitis.”
For patient information, please visit www.uabmedicine.org.