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Invasion of the Allergens

Published by , on May 1, 2014

fluWell if the watery eyes, sneezing kids and pollen covered cars didn’t clue you in… it’s officially allergy season and the allergens are out in full swing! To help us make it through the season without locking ourselves indoors, Dr. Santhosh Kumar, a specialist in the pediatric allergy and immunology division at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR), gives us a lesson in the basics of nasal allergies.What does the term allergy mean?Allergy is a condition where the body over-responds to a harmless substance. There are different types of allergies, although the basic underlying process is the same. When substances trigger an allergic response in the nose, we have nasal allergies. Other common types include food, drug and insect sting allergies.What are symptoms of nasal allergies?Common symptoms of nasal allergies include sneezing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, stuffy nose, nose bleeds, decreased sense of smell, headaches, fatigue and poor sleep. Other symptoms which can result from nasal allergies include sinus pressure, earaches, throat itching, post nasal drip (excess mucus in the back of the throat) and cough. Usually people have a combination of these symptoms.What are triggers for nasal allergies?Nasal allergies can be “triggered” by a variety of different allergens:

  • Perennial allergies are allergies that occur throughout the year. These types of allergies are most commonly caused by something a person is exposed to year round. Common triggers for perennial nasal allergies include indoor allergens such as dust mites; dander (hair, feathers or skin) from cats, dogs, mice, rats and birds; roaches; and mold.
  • Seasonal allergies (commonly called “hay fever”) are allergies that occur during particular seasons. Children more frequently have seasonal allergies compared to adults. Common triggers for seasonal nasal allergies include outdoor allergens such as tree, grass and weed pollen and outdoor mold. Keep in mind that outdoor allergens can be found in significant quantity indoors in some homes.

Who is affected by allergies?Anyone can be affected by allergies but the likelihood of a child developing an allergy increases if one or both parents have allergies. The influence of the environment can also cause an allergic condition to start in a person.It typically takes at least two seasons for a child to develop an allergic response to outdoor allergens. So, nasal allergies are most often seen in children age 2 and older. There are exceptions, however, as children can become sensitized earlier to indoor allergens if they are significant and both parents are allergic. Usually a child with allergies develops eczema, then over the next year or two develops nasal allergies, and maybe eventually asthma. It is important to recognize and treat allergies at the earliest possible stage with the hope of preventing this progression.Who can help with allergies?If you think your child has allergy symptoms, request a referral from your primary care doctor to see an allergist for evaluation. An allergist will be able to identify triggers for your child’s allergy and offer allergen avoidance measures and also medications, depending on the need. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) offers a wide variety of services to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. From skin testing to identify particular allergens, to immunotherapy treatment for severe allergies, CHoR’s allergy specialists can discover exactly what your child reacts to and tailor the necessary treatment to their specific needs.To keep track of allergens and avoid severe days, pollen counts can be found at aaaai.org and on local news stations or The Weather Channel.

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