Health Notebook. Hay fever
Help for hay fever
FAMILY LIFE CAN become quite miserable when your toddler experiences the uncomfortable and distressing allergic reaction known as hay fever. A little knowledge on mom’s side can help manage the condition. SOME SCIENCE
Liana Hom, a lecturer in pharmacology at North-west University, says that when a child is predisposed to an allergic reaction and comes into contact with a specific allergen (pollen from trees and grasses in the hay fever reaction), his body mistakenly views it as a dangerous foreign invader.
“His body churns out antibodies that trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals to fight off the invader. The result is an allergic reaction of hay fever: a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing or wheezing.”
Liana says about 15 to 20 percent of the population is prone to allergies and that children are more vulnerable than adults.
“Any child can become allergic to something, but children from families where one or both parents suffer allergic reactions or asthma are more likely to suffer allergic reactions. Up to 80 percent of toddlers with asthma have an allergy as well,” she adds. HAY FEVER OR VIRUS? Hay fever is sometimes confused with a virus. How long the symptoms last is how you can distinguish between the two. Viruses usually last for only a week or two, but if your toddler has a constant running nose and sneezes every day for a specific part of the year, it’s a sign he could be allergic to something. PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE Pollen is released in the early morning and gets carried above our heads as the air becomes warmer. In the evening it comes back down. Symptoms are therefore usually worse during the early morning and evening. To lessen your toddler’s exposure, do the following: • Close all the windows at night to prevent pollen entering the house. • Smear petroleum jelly on the inside of his nose to prevent pollen from being inhaled. • When coming back indoors, wash his hair, face and hands and change his clothes. • Try to avoid playing in large fields or grasslands. • Use air filters to reduce levels of pollen indoors. • Close car windows while driving. If you think your toddler is suffering from hay fever it is important to get a specialist diagnosis because it could be a non-pollen allergy, such as dust mite or pet fur. Hay fever has clear seasonal systems, which occur every year around spring and indicate an allergy to grass pollen. But your toddler might be allergic to tree pollen, which occurs at the end of spring. The most common trees that produce an allergic reaction are birch, hazel or elder – all members of the same tree family.
John Collard of the Uk-based charity Allergy UK advises that antihistamines generally have a good safety record, which is why they are over-the-counter medicines. “Hay fever sufferers should take them regularly, not just on the days when they feel bad. If taken throughout the hay fever season, they work much better,” he says. Talk to your pharmacist about options for your child.
Medications are also available for long-term and symptomatic treatment but should always be prescribed by your paediatrician. YB
Everyone loves spring, right? Hay fever sufferers not so much…