AH-CHOO! Coping with seasonal allergies

It’s only 3 p.m. on a Saturday and one of my children is in the shower for the second time today washing off the pollen which has turned her face into a puffy, slimy raspberry. It’s that beautiful time of year when the blooming flowers trigger allergic symptoms such as runny noses and red itchy eyes.


In addition to washing pollen off your child’s body, you can make some changes in your child’s environment to help decrease allergic reactions to the “great” outdoors. For one, turn on the air conditioner and close the windows to limit the outdoors from entering your child’s bedroom. Also, have your child wash her hands as soon as she comes in from playing outside to decrease the chances of her rubbing allergens into her eyes and nose.


Many kinds of medications can help allergy symptoms. The most commonly used oral medications are the antihistamines. These medicines work by limiting the “histamines” your body makes in response to allergies. Histamine causes itchy skin, red eyes, and runny noses. Examples of antihistamines are diphenhydramine (brand name Benedryl), loratadine (brand name Claritin), cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (brand name Allegra). The most common side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness, especially with older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine.  Most antihistimines are now available over the counter.


Allergy eye drops and nose sprays act topically on the eyes or nose to combat allergy symptoms. Some prescription nose sprays contain topical steroids or antihistamines. Eye drops may contain antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers (more cells which cause allergy symptoms!).


Another allergy medicine heavily advertised is Singulair. This medicine is a leukotriene inhibitor which prevents the body from releasing another type of substance (leukotrienes) that causes allergy symptoms.


Decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can help decrease nasal stuffiness. This is the “D” in “Claritin D” or “Allegra D.” However, they are discouraged in young children because of potential side effects such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.


Some of the above mentioned medicines can be taken together and SOME CAN NOT. Parents may inadvertently give more than one oral antihistamine simultaneously. Read the labels carefully for the active ingredients and do NOT give more than one oral antihistamine at a time. In contrast, most antihistamine eye drops and nose sprays can be given together with oral antihistamines.


Please consult your child’s health care provider to determine which allergy medications will best help your child this allergy season.  A carefully thought out allergy plan can go a long way to helping your child’s allergy symptoms.


Sure beats taking five showers a day or having your nose removed for allergy season!


Naline Lai MD and Julie Kardos, MD

© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod

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