We know that allergies are no fun during this time of year and it’s tough to see your kid uncomfortable and sniffling constantly. Here’s the 411 on seasonal allergies and how you and your family can identify them and help keep them in check.
Seasonal allergies are on the rise, and nowadays, the number of outpatient clinic visits due to a wide spectrum of allergic symptoms is increasingly high. Even kids and adults who have never had any seasonal allergies in years past can develop it suddenly.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are often referred to as hay fever, which causes an allergic reaction to environmental triggers that typically occur during spring or fall. In fact, seasonal allergies are less common during winter but different plants emit their respective pollens at different times of the year. Symptoms of hay fever may affect an individual year-round depending on one’s immune system and where they live.
Hay fever is a pretty common problem among the foreign community in Shanghai irrespective of their age and gender. Most of them have never had any allergies in the past and they have suddenly developed it in Shanghai, hence I believe that this is a significant health care problem in Shanghai. As far as I am concerned, the most probable causative factors here in Shanghai are rapid temperature fluctuation both throughout the day and day-to-day and air pollution.
Most importantly, seasonal allergies can start at almost any time, though it usually develops by age 10 and reaches its peak in the early 20s and often disappears as one moves further into adulthood.
Identifying the common symptoms of seasonal allergies:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy throat, eyes or ear canals
- Ear congestion
- Post nasal drainage
Managing the Exposure to Pollen
Even though, complete avoidance of pollen is impossible, there are number of measures that you can take to minimize offending allergens.
When you are indoors, the following measures will reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.
- Try staying indoors on dry, windy days and when pollen counts are reported to be high
- Wash bed linens at least once a week in hot water (1300F or higher)
- Regularly clean carpets and all upholstered furniture in your home
- Remove stuffed toys from children’s bedrooms
- Cover bedding and pillows with allergen-proof covers
- Fix any water leaks as this can help reduce mold
Keeping your indoor air clean can be the most important factor for keeping seasonal allergies in check at home. Using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in air conditioners to better trap pollen spores, changing air condition filters regularly and keeping the indoor air dry with a dehumidifier (aim to keep indoor humidity less than 50 percent) can all be very effective.
Think about extra precautions before traveling and outdoor activities, such as:
- Check pollen counts before you travel and consider vacations near oceans or bays where pollen counts are typically lower
- Try to minimize early morning activities when pollen is emitted (usually between 5-10 am)
- Keep the car windows closed when traveling
- Wear protective masks when gardening and doing outdoor activities
- Wear sunglasses when you are outdoors to reduce the amount of pollen coming into your eyes
- Wash your hair at the end of the day to avoid pollen coming in contact with your pillowcase
- Pets can bring in pollen, so consider rinsing them off if they were outdoors on a high-pollen day
Finally, if your seasonal allergy symptoms are just flat out making you and your family miserable, it is advisable to meet with your family physician before trying any over-the-counter medications. There are plenty of medical facilities available to diagnose and help control seasonal allergy symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a skin test or blood test to identify the exact allergens that trigger your symptoms. Furthermore, if symptoms cannot be managed with medicine, your doctor may recommend regular allergy shots (immunotherapy), which can help desensitize you and your kids to the offending allergens.
Dr. Amali Sajeewika is a registered family physician at American Medical Center/JJ-Premier Medical Care (AMC/JJP), a comprehensive mental and medical health service clinic for children, adolescents, adults, and families living in Shanghai.