These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.Despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information, it’s still nice to consult a parenting expert once in a while to get some new ideas, advice and even a dose of perspective.
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AHHHH-CHOOO! Seasonal Allergies Abound in Central Texas: What is a Parent to do?
1. What should parents look out for during the Spring and Summer?
Airborne allergens: Spring and summer bring a host of new allergens and insects that can cause itchy skin, rash, eye symptoms, and nasal symptoms. Typically, grass and tree pollen are predominant in the spring and summer. As the summer progresses, and there is less rain, the pollen does tend to decrease. If, however, rain is abundant throughout the summer, grass pollen will continue to flourish.
Stinging Insects: The emergence of insects with spring can also be a problem especially as more activity occurs outdoors. Stinging insects such as bees, wasps and fire ants all cause painful stings that can lead to severe reactions in some children. Other insects such as mosquitoes also tend to be much more active, especially when rain is present.
2. For parents who may suspect allergies in children, what are your recommendations?
Typically, allergy symptoms include itchy watery eyes, itchy, sneezing, nasal symptoms and will often worsen whenever exposure occurs. If sneezing attacks typically occur while going outside, but rarely occur while staying inside, this may be an indication of an outdoor allergy. It can be difficult to determine the difference between spring/summer colds and allergens, but usually there is a significant amount of itching that occurs with allergy over that with a viral infection.
Over-the-counter medications often are helpful with treating the allergy symptoms. Antihistamines can be very helpful for itchy and sneezing symptoms. There are also several over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays which help significantly with most nasal symptoms. Side effects such as drowsiness with antihistamines, and nasal bleeding with the nasal steroid sprays, need to be monitored. Other remedies that are not medications include saline sinus washes, and saline nasal sprays, which can also be helpful. If using saline sinus washes however, use water that has been boiled and cooled, or distilled water with the saline packages.
3. How long can an over the counter medication be used? How long should you use the medication until you know it may not be working and it’s time to see an allergist?
Over the counter medications are generally safe, however, if they are consistently needed their use should be discussed with your physician to
discuss long-term side effects and if other treatment may be helpful. Antihistamines generally work quickly within several hours. Nasal steroid sprays however, take several days to start working well, and up to several weeks to be at their full effectiveness. Seeing an allergist can be helpful in many ways. Allergy testing may be recommended which will help to determine what allergens may be causing symptoms. Some allergens can possibly be avoided, seasonal worsening of symptoms can be anticipated, and immunotherapy (allergy shots) may also be recommended. Starting allergy medications prior to the seasonal increases in allergens often is more effective than waiting until symptoms are present. In addition, knowing what you are allergic to helps to concentrate the use of medications during the times of year that you are most likely to have symptoms.
4. What treatments can an allergist offer for children with allergies?
Most allergists will discuss the 3 main approaches to dealing with allergy. This includes avoidance of allergens, using medications to treat allergies, and immunotherapy (allergy shots). Using a combination of these approaches will help to minimize the impact of allergy on your child’s well-being.
Scott Oberhoff, MD, is an Allergy, Asthma and Immunology specialist at ADC’s North and Steiner Ranch Clinics. He is board-certified in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to diagnose and treat both adults and children. Dr. Oberhoff has been recognized as a Texas Monthly Rising Star from 2012-14 and Texas Monthly Super Doctor in 2015 and 2016. For more information, or to make an appointment call 512-901-4052.