Health Note­book. Hay fever

Help for hay fever

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

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…

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