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How to treat, avoid seasonal allergies

Erin Dobie, APRN, CNP
Erin Dobie, APRN, CNP

Erin Dobie, APRN, CNP

Minnesotans love seasonal changes and warmer weather, but for those who suffer from allergies this can be a difficult time of the year.

Mold, grass and pollen are three top allergens. Weeds, more frequently abundant in late summer, also can cause problems for some children and adults.

Children suffer from seasonal allergies, and early recognition of symptoms and treatment may help alleviate some of their discomfort. There’s no cure for seasonal allergies, but controlling symptoms is the main goal of therapy.

Allergic rhinitis, sometimes referred to as hay fever, is the condition caused by allergies. Typical symptoms include runny, itchy nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and postnasal drip. Other common symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, red eyes, itchy ears or throat or cough.

The diagnosis and proper treatment of allergies depends on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Allergic rhinitis is classified as intermittent (seasonal) or persistent. Intermittent is defined as symptoms lasting less than four weeks in duration or less than four days per week. Persistent allergic rhinitis is classified by symptoms lasting in any higher frequency. The severity of symptoms is important and determined by the amount of impairment in a child’s daily activities and sleep.

How to avoid allergens

Avoidance of allergens is the best way to control symptoms and eliminate, or at least minimize, the need for medication.

  • Keeping windows closed is an easy way to help avoid pollens from trees and mold. Pollen counts often are highest at night; therefore, if windows need to be open for a period of time it’s better to do so during the day.
  • Window filters are available at local home-improvement stores or online. These allow airflow into the room but block pollens.
  • Avoid line-drying clothes outside.
  • Bathe or shower children, and change their clothes soon after they have been playing outside to wash away pollen.

Treatment

Treatment of allergies depends of the severity and type of symptoms present. Mild or intermittent symptoms can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is the most-well-known antihistamine but can be sedating and causes drowsiness. This medication needs to be administered every 6-8 hours. Some other over-the-counter antihistamine medications which do not cause drowsiness and can be used for children over the age of two include Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Allegra (fexodenadine). These medications can be given once daily to help control symptoms. For children younger than 2 years old, please consult with a medical provider for the most appropriate option.

Persistant allergies may require a nasal anti-inflammatory nasal spray. These are known as inhaled corticosteroids. Flonase (fluticasone) and Nasacort (triamcinolone) are two nasal sprays that are now available over the counter. A prescription for Nasonex (mometasone furoate monohydrate) still is required. Talk with your primary provider regarding the most-appropriate option for your child.

Severe allergies that aren’t controlled with a combination of the above options may require immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual tablets). Allergy specialists are available to help manage severe allergy symptoms.

For maximum allergy control, avoid allergens and start appropriate treatment early.

Erin Dobie, APRN, CNP, is a nurse practitioner on the St. Paul campus of Children’s Minnesota.