Coping With Fall Allergies
The most common airborne triggers of seasonal/fall allergies are: ragweed, weed pollen and mold. In this area, the Fall pollen season typically begins in late August and can last until the first hard freeze.
Many patients with Fall seasonal allergies have symptoms that begin when the farmers are harvesting and typically improve after the harvest is over. Mold has a tendency to grow on the crops and then becomes airborne when the farmers are in the fields. Allergic symptoms can affect the eyes, nose, lungs and skin.
Allergic conjunctivitis (non-infectious pink eye) typically manifests as intense episodes of itching, redness, tearing, and swelling of the eyelid. Allergic rhinitis manifests as watery nasal discharge, blocked nasal passages, sneezing, nasal itching, post-nasal drip, loss of taste, facial pressure or pain, ear popping, ear itching and sore throat.
Patients with allergic rhinitis can also have significant mouth breathing especially at night leading to frequent sleep awakenings and daytime sleepiness. Patients with asthma can also experience worsening symptoms after allergen exposure. Typical asthma symptoms include non-productive cough that is worse at night, chest tightness and wheezing. Although eczema is more commonly associated with food allergies, airborne allergens such as fall pollens can exacerbate eczema.
The first step in treatment with any allergy is avoidance. Outdoor allergens are much more difficult to avoid since children like to spend time outdoors,especially during the Fall months.
Here are a few tips for avoiding outdoor Fall allergens:
If symptoms persist,then an over-the-counter second-generation antihistamine, such as loratadine or cetirizine can be given for mild eye and/or nasal symptoms (children under 2 years should consult with their physician prior to using antihistamines).
If symptoms persist and begin to affect daily functioning or if asthma symptoms are frequent, then they should consult with their primary physician or allergist. There are several prescription medicines that can be used to treat seasonal allergy symptoms.
Dr. Jeffrey Lehman is Director of the Huff & Puff Allergy and Asthma program at St. John's Children's Hospital.
He is employed by St. John's Hospital and practices Allergy/Immunology at Physician's Group Associates in Springfield. He is also a clinical assistant professor on the volunteer faculty for SIU School of Medicine. He is board certified in Allergy/Immunology, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. The Allergy & Primary Immunodeficiency Clinic is for children who were born with an immune system that is not working correctly, often resulting in infections that are more severe and longer lasting. To schedule an appointment, call 217-698-9722, ext 231.
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