Fall is no friend to allergy sufferers

This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Even if you’ve had a sniffle-free spring and summer, fall has the potential to grab your sinuses and squeeze. As the leaves and temperatures start to drop, your child’s allergies can kick up, thanks to a whole host of new plants and problems.

Allergies affect about 40 percent of kids, and Dayton has traditionally ranked as one of the most challenging cities for allergy sufferers. There are three main causes of allergies in the fall. Ragweed season traditionally starts in the middle of August and can last through October. Ragweed has a tremendous amount of pollen grains per plant and it can travel for hundreds of miles on the wind. If your child had trouble with spring plants, there’s a 75 percent chance ragweed will tickle their nose and throat, too.

Mold is another big problem for allergy sufferers in the fall. Mold spores grow in wet spots, so soggy leaves on the ground are the perfect breeding ground. The third most common trigger for fall allergies may surprise you – dust mites. Turning on the heat can pull them from the corners, push them into the air and straight into your child’s nose. Returning to the classroom is enough to trigger some allergies; many schools harbor mold and dust mites.

It may be hard to tell if your child has fall allergies. Symptoms often mimic a cold. However if sniffling, sneezing, coughing and red eyes continue for longer than a few days, experts at Dayton Children’s Hospital suggest you may want to visit your child’s doctor.

“He or she can suggest the right medication to relieve your child’s symptoms,” said Shalini Forbis, MD, Dayton Children’s Health Clinic pediatrician and Dr. Mom Squad blogger. “Medications come in many forms including pills, liquids, nose sprays and eye drops.”

There are four main types of medication:

  • Antihistamines block the chemical that your body makes during an allergic reaction that causes runny noses and itchy eyes. However, it can make your child sleepy, so many formulas now come in a non-drowsy version.
  • Decongestants are used for quick, temporary relief of stuffy noses. They are often combined with an antihistamine in allergy medicines. Some kids may have trouble falling asleep if they take a decongestant. It may also make them irritable.
  • Corticosteroids ease allergy-related inflammation. They normally require a prescription.
  • Mast cell stabilizers are used when antihistamines aren't working well for the child. They also block the chemical your body makes during an allergic reaction. They usually need to be taken for several days to reach full effect.

“If you are not sure what is causing your child’s allergy symptoms, consider having him or her tested. Then you can track pollen counts and know what pollens are in the air to help you anticipate your child’s symptoms,” Forbis said.

While you may not look forward to colder weather, the good news for fall allergy sufferers is symptoms will improve with the first frost.