By Jamie Lober
Central Georgia is home to some of the most beautiful flowers and trees including carnation, willow oak, purple flower pink root, periwinkle, hyacinth, and Japanese plum. Spring is the prime time to ride your bike or take a walk on the nature trail, attend sports games, and have cookouts. It is also the prime time to experience the troublesome symptoms of allergies. Allergies are your immune system’s inappropriate response against things that are not harmful in your surroundings. “You may have nasal, eye, ear, and skin symptoms like congestion, post nasal drip, sinus pressure, coughing, itching (eyes, ears, skin, and face), and wheezing,” says board certified allergist/immunologist Dr. Rahul Vangala of Macon and Warner Robins. Depending on the severity of the allergies, your child may experience one or all of these symptoms.
Families who understand allergies are conscious of their environment, indoors and outdoors alike. “Allergies are year-round,” acknowledges Dr. Mokhtar Hacena at Robins Medical Associates. Some people may know their allergy season is coming when they see a yellow dusting on their car from the increased pollen count. However, the worst time depends on the individual and what he is sensitive to. “Tree pollen is the most common outdoor allergen at this time of year in the area. We have grass pollens in the summer and ragweed in the fall. Most people begin feeling allergies when pine pollen comes out, but it is just a marker of when other tree pollens are out,” explains Dr. James Logan of the Asthma and Pediatric Lung Center of Central Georgia.
It is important to be able to identify your allergy triggers and modify your life accordingly. It may help to keep a journal of what you come into contact with so it is easier for the doctor to diagnose your allergies. You can follow the pollen count by going to www.weather.com. If you find the pollen count to be high and one that you are sensitive to, it is advised to stay indoors on that day. If avoidance is not an option, it is better to go out early in the morning or late in the evening. In order to reduce the amount of allergens brought into your home, you should shower before going to bed that evening. You may deal with indoor allergens like dust by changing bed sheets, pillow cases, and ventilation systems. You may get a product like Hepa filter or Hepa air purifier such as BlueAire to help with air in the house, particularly in the allergic child’s bedroom. You should keep the windows to your home and cars closed and use air conditioning for relief from pollens and molds. Pillowcases that are allergy control barriers and mattress covers may also be helpful. In more severe cases, you may want to replace your carpet with hard wood floors.
You are probably wondering how your child ended up with allergies in the first place. Although allergies have both genetic and environmental components, it remains a mystery why some children are susceptible to environmental allergens while others are not. “If both parents have allergic tendencies, the child’s chance of having nasal allergies and asthma increase,” states Logan. You may act preventatively when you know your allergy is coming. “If you know you have allergies, you can take Zyrtec or Claritin during the months of October and November and stop in December. You may start back again at the end of January or February to prevent the allergies before they hit,” suggests Renu Patel, pharmacist at CVS of Macon. Oral antihistamines, like Zyrtec and Claritin, or a nasal antihistamine, like Patanese or Astepro, can provide temporary relief from sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Nasal steroids, like Flonase, may be used to reduce nasal congestion. You may reduce the discomfort from itchy eyes with antihistamine eye drops like Optivar or Patanol. A prescription may be required for some medications. If you have any questions, be sure to contact your physician. Medications can be used to block the reaction. The allergy will not go away by itself.
If symptoms are recurrent, you will want your child to see an allergist. You should make sure the one you select is well-trained and has expertise. You should not be afraid to ask if he is board-certified in allergy, asthma, and immunology.
Since everyone experiences different symptoms, the same treatment does not work for all children. One can be tested for up to thirty-two possible triggers in most allergy clinics. Some children will be allergic to all of them while others may only be allergic to a few. Based on the allergist’s findings, he will make a treatment recommendation that is appropriate for your child.
Some children turn to shots as a long-term treatment, lasting three to five years depending on the severity of the allergies, instead of medication. The child receives allergens in the shots that over time will decrease the child’s sensitivity to their allergy trigger, whether it is grass or pollen. For some, allergies may go away even after the shots have been stopped. Others may turn to sublingual therapy, or a three year commitment to drops under the tongue, which are supposed to build immunity faster and have fewer side effects.
Regardless of the treatment you choose, remember that when you are able to breathe well, your quality of life is improved. Do not allow your family to become allergy victims when there is so much you can do to fight back.