The active flowering period is in full swing — and many parents across the country are clutching their heads. In the spring-summer season, one of the most relevant reasons for contacting a pediatrician is a seasonal allergy to flowering — hay fever. We want to help you figure out how to distinguish an allergy from a SARS and what can be done if the child is allergic.
Where do seasonal allergies come from in children?
An allergic reaction in children manifests itself in response to pollen allergens, which begin to be released in large quantities as a result of flowering plants and grasses. The main disadvantage is that the child not only inhales the pollen directly, but also spreads the one that settles on the ground and his clothes. This pollen is not noticeable at all — and now the allergy again makes itself felt, circle after circle. Allergy symptoms cause constant discomfort in the child and worsen his quality of life, preventing proper rest or study.
Therefore, after returning home, it is so important to take off street shoes, clothes, take a shower, wash the child’s hair — a lot of pollen settles on them, especially if the baby walked actively or there was wind outside. If the child walked in a panama hat or hat, sat in a stroller, and was not under or next to flowering trees, a change of clothes, a washed face and hands will be enough.
The first manifestation of seasonal allergy to flowering occurs between the ages of three and nine years, however, in some cases, the allergy may appear both later and earlier. As a rule, an allergy occurs as follows: at the first contact with the allergen, the child’s body includes a special sensitivity. And when the second and subsequent contacts occur, the body immediately recognizes the «enemy» allergen and excites the immune system, which activates the appropriate reaction.
Since pollinosis is an IgE-mediated disease, it usually manifests itself after three years. But it happens before. Statistics show that this disease occurs more often in boys than in girls — provided that the child is initially prone to allergies, and he already has atopic reactions from an early age.
The immune response to the penetration of allergic pollen starts within a short time: literally in 10-20 minutes, mucosal edema begins, smooth muscle spasm, lacrimation, rhinorrhea and shortness of breath appear. If you know that your child is allergic and suffers from hay fever, it is important to always have antihistamines prescribed by a doctor with you.
But why don’t all children suffer from seasonal allergies? There are several risk factors that make some babies more prone to hay fever than others:
- hereditary factor. If there were many allergies in the family, then the child may also have a strong predisposition to hay fever. Surprisingly, even if the baby has only one parent who is allergic, the probability that he will also be allergic is 30-50%.
- Upper respiratory tract infections.
- Environment. The more potential pollen allergens in the region of residence (plus hot weather and windy climate), the more likely that the child’s body will react to one of them.
How to distinguish allergic rhinitis from the common cold
As you know, the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and the common cold are very similar. And how to understand that the child has a seasonal allergy to flowering?
First of all, they differ in the nature of their occurrence. Allergic rhinitis is caused by histamine, an inflammatory mediator that provokes the same symptoms — nasal congestion, snot, sneezing. In ordinary terms, with an allergy, the body perceives a harmless substance as a dangerous enemy and attacks it. A common cold is caused by viruses or bacteria. In addition, this is a one-time phenomenon, often accompanied by a temperature, in contrast to recurring allergic rhinitis.
Characteristic symptoms of acute respiratory viral infections (except for the common cold) — the child has a fever, the disease is accompanied by general malaise, increased fatigue, loss of appetite, drowsiness. When examining a child, one can detect swelling of the nasal mucosa, hyperemia of the pharynx, swollen lymph nodes and other signs of a viral infection. And with allergic rhinitis, there is both rhinorrhea and lacrimation, but at the same time, the child’s usual activity, good appetite and temperature are absent.
The main differences between allergic rhinitis and the common cold lie not so much in the aforementioned typical symptoms, but in specific concomitant manifestations. So, rhinitis can be called allergic, if the child, in addition to difficulty breathing, can experience:
- severe itching in the nose;
- continuous sneezing;
- clear watery discharge from the nose;
- eye redness;
- discomfort in the eyes (tingling, «sand»);
- weakness, high fatigue;
- sore throat, cough;
- atopic dermatitis.
It is important to understand that allergies do not necessarily have all of these symptoms at the same time. It is enough to be in a certain place at a certain time, where there are allergens, pollen, or where there are other conditions for the onset of an attack. In this case, the sudden appearance of lacrimation and rhinorrhea may well be reliable signs of an allergic reaction.
How to determine which pollen a child is allergic to
You can do this on your own only if you firmly know that in your yard, for example, only a birch tree blooms and the child’s body reacts only to it. True, even in such a “visual” method there may be an error. Therefore, to determine the allergen, it is best to consult an allergist.
After the examination, the allergist must confirm that the child has an allergic reaction and conduct allergy tests. However, parents should remember that allergy tests can only be carried out during the remission of hay fever (in September-October), and not during the flowering season.
It is advisable to do not only a blood test for specific immunoglobulin E to plants, but also scarification tests, they are still considered the most accurate in the diagnosis of allergen detection.
Measures to prevent hay fever
The best prevention of seasonal allergies is to carefully monitor the general allergophone in the region. This can be done, for example, with the help of the Allergotop project, where the latest data on the level of allergens in a particular region is published every year. In addition to the comfort scale, the allergophone also indicates the dominant pollen (oak, cereals, etc.). This allows you to additionally protect the child, who, for example, has a reaction exclusively to weed pollen.
On blooming days, it’s best to limit or eliminate your child’s outdoor exposure, especially on dry, windy days when the concentration of pollen in the air starts to skyrocket.
If during the flowering period the baby needs to leave the house, it is necessary to take care that he has special devices for washing the nose. For example, special sprays that relieve swelling and remove pollen particles, allergens, and bacteria from the nasopharynx. In addition, specially for allergy sufferers, goggles and allergy masks with filters are produced to protect the mucous membranes from pollen.
Go out for a walk at a certain time, preferably in the early morning hours or late in the evening, when the concentration of pollen in the air is significantly reduced and the air humidity is increased. Walking is good even after rain or near water bodies.
Prevention measures include regular wet cleaning of the house and the elimination of additional food allergens from the child’s diet at the time of flowering of those plants that cause allergic symptoms.
Ventilate your home in the early morning, close the windows for the rest of the time. If you use an air conditioner, be sure to change and wash the filters regularly.
And, of course, in the apartment where the allergic child lives, it is always necessary to keep a first aid kit on hand. But what drugs should be placed there and what additional precautions should be taken, it is better to discuss with your family doctor after passing all the examinations.
We thank Tatyana Semenchenya, pediatrician, author of the book “Healthy Child from 0 to 14, Laboratory Diagnostics”, host of the @tatimamavrach Instagram channel, for her help in preparing the material.