Spring arrived weeks ago, but it's not the sounds of chirping birds or buzzing bees we hear - it's sniffling, sneezing and coughing children that fill the air.
Are these symptoms of a common cold, or is allergy season here?
According to Beaumont Children's Hospital Pediatric Pulmonary and Allergy specialist, Martin Hurwitz, M.D., "It's been a wetter season which can result in more allergies. Those who are allergic to molds may show more symptoms."
Dr. Hurwitz says "avoidance" is an easy way to free yourself from breathing in allergens like pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, mold and dust. "Keeping windows closed at home and while driving a car are easy ways to avoid breathing in allergens," he adds.
While recent heavy rains and cooler temperatures are keeping most people indoors, Dr. Hurwitz advises to check in with your doctor or child's pediatrician now before symptoms start or worsen.
"If you are aware that you or your child has allergies, it's best to get a head start before allergy season peaks. Allergy medications always work better when taken a week or two before symptoms start, so you are not chasing the symptoms," he says.
Although allergy symptoms can sometimes be confused with a common cold or respiratory issues, "seasonal allergies usually last more than a week and develop at about the same time every year," explains Dr. Hurwitz.
In addition to coughing, sniffling and sneezing, allergy symptoms may include: runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, itchy eyes, nose or throat and red circles under the eyes.
|Martin Hurwitz, M.D.
Like Dr. Hurwitz, Beaumont physicians and pediatric specialists at Beaumont Children's Hospital can treat allergies with a variety of medications.
- Antihistamines - reduces sneezing, sniffling and itching. Several over-the-counter antihistamines generally do not cause drowsiness or fatigue. According to Dr. Hurwitz, "there is an advantage of once per day dosing with these medications."
- Decongestants - clear mucus out of the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling. Oral decongestants should not be given to young children. They may be helpful for adults with nasal allergy symptoms, but can have side effects including: increasing blood pressure and interfering with sleep. "Long-lasting use of decongestants may lead to decreasing effectiveness, as well as headache and other side effects," says Dr. Hurwitz."
- Nasal spray decongestants - relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants. They should not be used more than three days.
- Prescription steroid nasal spray - can help prevent hay fever by stopping the release of histamine, a chemical in the body that causes allergy symptoms, and by reducing allergic swelling.
- Eye drops - relieve itchy, watery eyes. Explains Dr. Hurwitz, "Prescription eye drops that contain antihistamine or corticosteroid are very useful in relieving eye allergy symptoms. Your doctor may want an eye specialist or allergist to prescribe these medications as there has to be precision in diagnosis for the eye medications to be safe and effective."
- Allergy shots - for children and adults whose allergy symptoms are more severe and not easily treated with medications, referral to an allergist for allergy shots should be considered. "Most patients who are correctly diagnosed and treated will experience substantial reduction of allergy symptoms," says Dr. Hurwitz. "It may take six to 12 months of therapy for the benefits to be noticeable. A complete course of therapy is long -approximately three to five years for maximum benefit."
For more information and to find a Beaumont Children's Hospital doctor, call 800-633-7377.