Allergies

Cough, runny nose, watery itchy red eyes? Welcome to Spring — I think!

Unfortunately for many of us and our children, along with nice weather and flowers come dreaded allergies.

Allergies, which affect approximately 10-20% of the population, often start in childhood, and are more commonly found with some family history of allergies. There is no cure, but with treatment, symptoms can be controlled and life can be made better, or at least more comfortable, for the patient.

Allergies are due to the body’s reaction to “allergens.” Some common Spring allergens are tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, and mold. These allergens trigger the immune response, causing symptoms such as a clear runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose, and throat, red and watering eyes, and chronic cough — all of which can make you and your children miserable!

Complications from allergies include poor school performance, irritability, poor concentration, increased sleeping, wheezing, and in some cases ear and sinus infections.

Treatment

The best treatment for allergies is avoidance. You can accomplish this by avoiding (or at least limiting) outdoor exposure in the morning and evening, when allergens levels are highest. You can also use air conditioning, especially at night, and avoid opening windows.

Of course, we all know that keeping your children locked indoors is not the easiest thing in the world to do, especially when they’ve been indoors all winter. So here are a two good ways to help control allergy symptoms:

1. Over-the-Counter Antihistamines

Common oral antihistamines are Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec ) and Fexofenadine (Allegra). Doses are based on age and or weight.

These come in liquid and in chewable forms. For parents who struggle with their children and medicine, I sympathize; we have similar problems in my house. Chewables work nicely, and the liquids can be mixed with a small amount of juice to help them get it down.

2. Eye Drops

There are also multiple eye drops that can be used to alleviate eye symptoms: Olopatadine (Patanol) and Ketotifen, (marketed as Alaway and Zaditor). You should follow the directions on the package for use.

When to Call

If you find that your child has seasonal symptoms, we recommend that you start the allergy meds as soon as the first signs appear, or about 1 week prior to the season start. At our house this year, we missed the start and are now trying to get things under control. Continue treatment through the end of the allergy season.

If you find the symptoms worsening or not being controlled with all of the above measures, or if your child develops ear pain, fevers, wheezing or thick nasal drainage, he or she should be evaluated in our office to determine if there is something other than allergies causing those symptoms.

As always, please call if you have any concerns regarding treatment, or any other questions we can help you answer.

Happy Spring! Enjoy the weather!

Dr. Hartung, a shareholder in the practice, has been a Kids Plus Doc since 2001. She teaches the Expectant Parent Orientation class at our Cranberry/Seven Fields office.