Spring Allergy Alert

Springtime is here — and so is allergy season.  Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is marked by a sensitive reaction to things in the environment, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander. If you suffer from a runny or stuffy nose and watery, itchy eyes around this time of year, it’s likely that you have seasonal allergic rhinitis. And in spring, pollen is the main culprit.

One of the best ways to combat spring allergies is to stay indoors, but that’s easier said than done. In addition to planned activities that may take us outside, it’s hard not to want to enjoy the mild temperatures that come with springtime in Florida. “Staying indoors as much as possible on windy days and in the morning when pollen counts are highest can be a good compromise. Keeping windows closed and using air-conditioning also can help. And it’s important to change air filters regularly,” says Deborah Lauridsen, MD, Family Medicine at Orlando Health Physician Associates.

Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose with clear discharge, and itching of the eyes, throat, ears and nose. Small children commonly will rub their noses frequently or “click” their mouths in an effort to scratch their throats. Symptoms that are severe or do not respond to medication require referral to an allergist and possible allergy testing.

Allergies require more than one exposure in order to develop, so allergic rhinitis is not very common in children under the age of 2, but is possible. Treatment for children 2 and younger includes cromolyn nasal spray and second-generation antihistamines. All of these are available in liquid form. A nasal steroid can be prescribed for children with persistent symptoms. As children age, allergies become more common, with 9 percent of 6-year-olds and 15 percent of 13-year-olds affected. Treatments for older children include antihistamines, nasal steroids and saline nasal irrigation.

Children with suspected indoor environmental allergies can benefit from “allergen avoidance” techniques such as replacing carpeting with hard flooring, using pillow and mattress protectors, limiting soft fabrics that can harbor allergens, and not allowing pets in the bedroom.

If you think you or your children may have allergies, discuss your concerns with your primary care physician. To find a primary care physician, call 321.8HEALTH (843.2584).