Seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as pollen allergy, can bring symptoms such as an itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, a blocked nose and watery discharge from the nose and eyes. Other symptoms are headaches, fatigue and a general malaise, and all of them can turn a game of football, a bike ride or a picnic into a real struggle.
"We see children who try to avoid symptoms by spending less time outside, often with the result that they become separated from playing with their friends. But many of these children suffer from their symptoms and become excluded unnecessarily during the pollen season for there are several ways to reduce the unpleasant effects of allergy through simple measures and treatment," says allergy expert at ALK Jørgen Nedergaard Larsen.
Some children have mild symptoms that don't affect them significantly, but for others, pollen allergy is more severe with a huge impact on their everyday lives, and it is especially these children who need help to control their allergy.
Helping children with mild symptoms
You can help by washing your child’s face and hair after outdoor play since pollen can stick to these areas. Keep the windows closed especially in the morning and early evening when the pollens are released in the air. At times with high pollen counts, you should also avoid drying clothes outside. It is also a good idea to keep the car windows rolled up to avoid taking in lots of pollens when driving.
Children with moderate and severe symptoms
If your child has not received a diagnosis for pollen allergy yet, but is highly affected by allergic symptoms during the pollen season, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your child’s paediatrician for further test and diagnosis. The paediatrician will probably ask about the history of the symptoms and conduct a skin prick test that can show if your child suffer from pollen allergy.
During a skin prick test, the inside of the arm is typically pricked with a tiny amount of allergen. If your child is allergic, redness and swelling will appear locally within 20 minutes and disappear again after a few hours. The test is safe for infants and young children and it is an important step towards finding relief for the pollen allergy symptoms since it is possible to control the disease and get help through treatments available from the doctor.
Receiving the right treatment can mean a remarkable change to a child's life. But finding the right treatment is also very important in the long run since pollen allergy left untreated is considered to be one of the major risk factors in the development of asthma. This can be explained by the ‘allergic march’ – a term that describes how allergic diseases progress throughout one’s life, and studies have shown that children who suffer from allergic rhinitis can go on to suffer from asthma. Approximately 20% of all hay fever patients develop asthma later in life.
Many treatment options for children
You will find that there are many options for treating your child’s hay fever, ranging from over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription symptomatic medicines, to more long-term treatments like allergy immunotherapy. The two overall ways of treatment have both shown to provide relief and put an end to the discomfort and the sensation of feeling ill, but there are some differences:
Symptomatic treatments work while taking the medicine, but have no long-term effect. They reduce the symptoms of allergy, but unlike allergy immunotherapy, they do not induce tolerance. Most symptomatic treatments are available over-the-counter (OTC), e.g. in supermarkets or pharmacies, and they can include treatments such as antihistamines, inhaled steroids and decongestants.
Allergy immunotherapy treatment has a long-term effect with sustained improvement, including in the years after completing the treatment. This is also the main difference between the effects of symptomatic and immunotherapy treatment since immunotherapy induces tolerance and alters the natural course of the disease.