The days and nights are getting warmer as we prepare to welcome Spring. But while we are all excited to see the season’s transition, the change of temperature can make us sick.
Hay fever is very common around this time of the year, more common than some of us may actually think.
According to the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA), allergic rhinitis (the medical term for hay fever) affects almost 2 in 10 South Africans.
While hay fever is often trivialised, it can cause more serious complications.
The basis of nasal allergic problems results from the interaction of common inhaled allergens with specialised cells in the nasal mucous membrane. This reaction results in the release of powerful chemical agents of which histamine is the best known, explains Dr Sarah Karabus.
“Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal, often due to various pollens that are present in the air at different times of the year, or it can be persistent, due to allergen triggers that are present year-round such as dogs, cats, birds, dust mites, moulds, fungal spores and cockroaches,” says Karabus.
Other factors that can bring on allergies include cigarette smoke and genetics.
Children have a 30-60 percent chance of developing hay fever if one of their parents is affected and a 50-70 percent chance if both parents have it.
Parents should avoid indoor smoking as it not only worsens the allergy, but it can also cause asthma in children.
Avoid the triggers
The best way to treat hay fever is to avoid the triggers. These are the things that are likely to cause it in the first place. These could be pets, flowers or grass. Although the symptoms of hay fever are similar to those of the common cold, they two are dramatically different. The cold is caused by a virus, while hay fever is not. A cold can last for up to 10 days, while hay fever can be continuously present. Other symptoms of hay fever include a permanent stuffy nose, constant nose wiggling, wiping or pushing of the nose, red watery eyes, dark rings under the eyes, snoring and mouth breathing.
According to Karabus, if your child suffers from food allergies and eczema then she could also be prone to hay fever.
Treatment of hay fever
Parents can also get their child tested for hay fever by an allergy specialist. Not treating hay fever can be detrimental to your child’s health. It can eventually worsen asthma, cause dental problems, sinusitis and post nasal drip. It can also affect your child’s sleep, eventually reducing their ability to concentrate and therefore lead to problems at school.
“In general, treatment for toddlers and babies is the same for adults, though certain medication cannot be taken by children,” says Karabus. She suggests using a nasal spray to wash pollens out of the eyes and nose.
Treatment includes oral and nasal sprays and an allergy immunotherapy vaccination.
However, parents must always consult with their health-care practitioner about what is best for their child.
The allergy clinic
021 671 1254