Environmental allergies, commonly called “hay fever”, affect the nose. Symptoms include nasal congestion, drippy nose, sneezing, itching and puffy eyelids. These symptoms can also be exacerbated by irritants such as cigarette smoke or perfumes. The term “hay fever” can be misleading as you do not need to be exposed to hay or have fever to have the symptoms. There are two types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal - caused by sensitivity to airborne pollens or mold spores; and perennial – with symptoms year-round caused by sensitivity to dust mite, pet dander or cockroach.
Hay fever is not just a nuisance. It can affect one’s productivity and quality of life. Children are especially susceptible and can suffer with symptoms such as irritability, sleep disorders, decreased concentration and limited activities. Children can miss school, suffer academically and athletically and their symptoms can be mistaken for attention deficit disorder. With proper treatment, allergy symptoms can be controlled and disruptions in learning and behavior can be avoided. An evaluation by an allergist is imperative to discuss proper allergen avoidance, pharmacotherapy and immunotherapy (allergy shots). There is evidence that immunotherapy in childhood can prevent further allergies and the development of allergic asthma.