Seasonal allergies develop when our bodies become overly sensitive to harmless particles floating in the air. These particles are known as allergens and they cause the immune system to release certain substances into the blood, such as histamines. Common allergens include pet hair/dander, dust, and pollen from trees, grass, and weeds.
When allergens activate the immune system, any of the following symptoms can occur:
Seasonal allergies can happen at any age and often takes a while to develop. The timing and severity of allergy symptom flare ups will vary based on the season of pollination for different plant types. However, if your child is allergic to pet hair or dust, symptoms may be present on an ongoing basis since these are indoor allergens.
Seasonal allergies are mainly diagnosed by a review of your child’s symptoms and when they occur. Additionally, your doctor will perform an exam looking for the presence of physical findings suggesting allergies. In some instances, it may be useful to perform allergy testing. There are two options for testing, 1) blood work or 2) skin tests. Your pediatrician will determine the best method of testing, based on your child’s age as well as other factors. It is important to keep in mind that though allergy testing can be helpful, it may not always be completely accurate. As a result, repeat testing over a period of time is sometimes recommended.
The best treatment for allergies is avoiding exposure. This can be done by minimizing outings during periods of high pollen counts. If this is not possible, immediately removing clothing and showering will help to remove pollen from the body. Indoors, be sure to dust often and vacuum pet hair to manage exposures.
Medication management is also an option to help control allergy symptoms. There are medicines that can be taken by mouth as a pill or liquid as well as nasal sprays or eye drops. Some medications work by blocking histamines while others block leukotrienes (another substance that causes allergy symptoms). Nasal sprays and eye drops reduce inflammation, thereby providing relief. Many allergy medications are readily accessible over the counter. Well-known brands include Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. It is best to speak with your child’s doctor for guidance on which medication to use, when to use it, and recommended follow-up care. For some children, the help of an allergist may be required. In those instances, your pediatrician will provide you with a referral for additional care.