Head off spring allergies before they arrive

03/18/2014 1:00 AM

02/15/2015 10:42 AM

Q: I can’t wait for spring to get here, but I also dread it because it means my kids’ allergies will kick in. Is there anything I can do to prevent them from feeling constantly miserable this season?

A: This is a big problem for lots of kids and families. Environmental allergies can bother people year-round, but a lot of people’s environmental allergies only bother them in the spring season. Spring is right around the corner, so this might be the time to start preparing for and controlling those spring allergies.

In our region, spring allergies are usually due to trees and grasses – yes, that includes pollen. These allergies often include rhinitis or runny nose, conjunctivitis with symptoms of runny and itchy eyes, and often, a sore throat from irritation. For some people, the lower respiratory system can also be involved, with worsened asthma.

We have effective medications to help control seasonal allergies. Antihistamines work relatively quickly after taking them and help prevent ongoing allergy reaction. Commonly used medications in this category include older medications such as Benadryl or newer ones such as Claritin.

Nasal steroids such as Flonase are another highly effective treatment for allergic rhinitis. This medication takes a few days or longer to have its greatest effectiveness. Other possible treatments include eyedrops, oral steroids and decongestants. If medications don’t easily control the symptoms, some children can get “allergy shots” to slowly decrease the body’s response to the environmental triggers.

Many people who have springtime allergy symptoms that are difficult to control, start taking a nasal steroid spray at the end of winter, then add an antihistamine as the spring season begins. Most general doctors are comfortable helping to treat your allergy symptoms, and difficult cases can be helped with care from a specific allergy specialist.

Don’t suffer in silence this spring; this can be treated!

Dr. Mike Steiner is a pediatrician in the division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at UNC and North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

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