Allergic rhinitis (or ‘hay fever’) is triggered by an allergic reaction to allergens such as pollens, moulds, dust mites, animal hair or other pollutants. Allergic rhinitis affects over 3 millions Australians, and while it usually occurs seasonally in spring, when grass, weed or tree pollens are at their peak, it can occur all year round.
Signs and symptoms of hay fever can include:
The best way of treating hay fever is to find out exactly what your child is allergic to, and then reduce your child’s exposure to that trigger. You might already know what causes your child’s hay fever but if you don’t, a skin prick test/scratch test or blood test may hold the answers. A skin prick test involves small amounts of common allergy-causing substances (allergens) being scratched onto the skin to determine whether the body has an allergic reaction to it.
Sometimes it is not possible for your child to completely avoid a known allergen, such as pollen. In this case, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, nasal sprays or eye drops to minimise the symptoms of hay fever.
Immunotherapy – a treatment which exposes your child to increasing amounts of a known allergen, allowing the body to build up a tolerance to that substance – may also be recommended.
If ongoing hay fever is left untreated it can disturb sleep and make children very tired during the day. Other side effects of untreated hay fever include asthma that is harder to control, an increased risk of sinus or eye infections and even poor concentration at school.
Remember that hay fever can occur at any time of year, not just springtime, and can be triggered by many different substances. If your child is displaying signs of hay fever on a regular basis, finding out the cause should be on the top of your to-do list.
A helpful and free resource is the Pollen Calendar on the website of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy where you can identify common allergenic pollen plants that may be growing nearby. www.allergy.org.au
How Can I Tell The Difference Between A Cold and Hay Fever?
It can often be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and hay fever symptoms.
While a runny nose is one of the main symptoms of both a cold and hay fever, there are some big differences between the two. Mucus from a cold will usually be thick and yellowy or green in colour, while mucus resulting from hay fever looks clear and much thinner.
Confusingly, even though we commonly call it “hay fever”, if your child has a fever, then it is more likely that they have a cold rather than hay fever. Hay fever sufferers are not likely to run a temperature unless they have had ongoing hay fever that has lead to a sinus infection.
Ears and Throat
Hay fever sufferers may have an itchy throat, roof of mouth and ears, but children with colds are more likely to experience a sore throat and sometimes painful earache.
Most children with hay fever get itchy watery eyes. If your child is rubbing their eyes a lot, you can almost be positive you are dealing with hay fever. Children suffering from colds do not commonly have this symptom unless they also have conjunctivitis.
If in doubt about your child, don't hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our pharmacists.
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