It’s spring allergy season again, with its tell-tale signs of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, scratchy throat, and accompanying itchiness.
Allergies affect about 40% of all children, so every spring Bee Well sees an increase in those symptoms among our patients.
The symptoms can be misleading, because they are similar to those associated with the viral infection of a common cold. However, itching is usually a sign of allergens instead of a virus.
In severe cases, allergies can cause more serious symptoms — such as rash, hives and even difficulty breathing — so no allergic reaction should be taken lightly.
What exactly is an allergy?
Simply stated, it’s when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. The symptoms are the body’s way of trying to expel the source of irritation. There are many things that people are allergic to, and various ways for allergens to enter the body. In the case of seasonal allergies, it’s caused primarily by inhalation of pollen, mold, and other irritants that are in the air.
How can allergies be treated?
There is no cure for allergies, but the symptoms can be managed with treatment, and can be avoided to some extent.
Totally eliminating exposure to allergens is virtually impossible, especially for active children, but there are things you as a parent can do to minimize it. Keeping the windows closed at night definitely helps. A bath and clean clothes before bed helps keep the bed free of allergens. And when the allergy count outside is particularly high, it’s best to stay inside as much as possible. The local news usually reports the day’s levels of pollen, mold, and other irritants, so it’s easy to keep aware of what’s in the air.
Once allergy symptoms are present, over-the-counter medications often are helpful in providing relief. Antihistamines are usually effective against itching and sneezing, and nasal sprays can comfort dry and irritated nasal passages. However, both medications have side effects — drowsiness with antihistamines, and possible nasal irritation with sprays — so their use should always be carefully administered and closely monitored.
Other over-the-counter options for treating allergies include the supplements Quercetin and Bromelain. Quercetin is a compound typically found in many foods suchs as garlic, onions, and apples — and in the concentrated pill form it can help prevent the release of histamine from mast cells. This a similar mechanism of action as the prescription drug Singulair.
A chewable version of this supplement for kids called D-Hist is available over the counter. It also contains Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory naturally found in the skin of pineapples.
Allergy shots or drops can provide long-term relief while reducing the amount of medication your child needs.
At Bee Well, we use a needle free allergy skin test for environmental (inhalant) allergens to discover what may be triggering our patients’ allergy symptoms.
While allergy shots are typically administered by an allergist, we also offer allergy drops (oral immunotherapy), which is safe for use in children 2 years and older. Allergy drops based on skin testing done in the office can be ordered through a third party pharmacy, at a cost of typically $60-$70 per month. The length of treatment is typically 1-2 years with significant reduction or complete elimination of allergy symptoms. Less sneezing, less medicines, less trips to the doctor’s office!
If your child is feeling the symptoms of allergies, make an appointment with Bee Well today.