Do You Have Spring Fever?

By Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Spring is a lovely time of flowers blooming and birds singing. It also means your car, house, shoes and even your eyelashes will likely be covered in that yellow haze. Spring brings beautiful, comfortable weather, mood-enhancing sunshine and the itch to spend time outdoors tossing the ball or riding a bike. But Spring hay fever also arrives and for some it brings allergy misery.

Allergic Response

An allergic response starts when the immune system mistakes a normally harmless substance, such as pollen or pet dander, for a dangerous invader. Your body produces antibodies to protect you from the unwanted substances. With allergies, your body makes antibodies to particular allergens and the resulting reaction can inflame skin, sinuses, airways or the digestive system. The severity of the allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, can cause congestion; runny nose; coughing due to post-nasal drip and irritation; itching in ears, nose and throat; and itchy, watery, swollen eyes. If one is prone to reactive airway disease or asthma, upper airway allergy irritation will irritate lower airways resulting in chest tightness and wheezing. Allergies and asthma account for more than 10 million lost work and school days a year and pose a very real and miserable problem.

Age is a risk factor for developing allergies. Although allergies can develop at any age, children are more likely to develop allergies. If one parent has allergies, there is a 40% chance of passing it on to the child. If both parents have allergies, there is a 90% chance of passing it on to their child. It is not uncommon for allergies to go away and then return in the future.

Another risk factor is having one type of allergy. It simply increases the risk of developing other allergies.

Common Complications

Common complications of allergies include eczema, sinusitis, ear infections or lung infections. Having an allergy makes one more prone to developing asthma. Symptom management becomes extremely important for the best health outcomes. It is helpful to identify what triggers you or your child may have. Consider keeping a symptom diary to help identify what the allergens may be in your environments. Also, primary care providers or allergists can help to identify allergens, through RAST testing or skin-prick testing, which allows for specific avoidance of the allergens.

How To Avoid It

Allergen avoidance is generally the most important step in preventing allergic reactions and reducing symptoms. Benadryl used to be the best treatment for hay fever, but it wears off in about 8 hours and generally causes sedation. The newer OTC second- generation antihistamines provide 24-hour coverage, are generally non-drowsy and have a great safety profile. Allergy eye drops provide immediate relief and last twelve hours when needed. For some patients, prescription nasal steroid sprays may be necessary to manage symptoms, in addition to the antihistamines.

When to get Help

For severe allergies or allergies not completely relieved by other treatment, immunotherapy via allergy shots or newer options may be necessary. An allergist can determine if you or your child is a candidate. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to grow healthy children one step at a time. If your child is suffering with allergies and you would like to know what to avoid and how to make him more comfortable, call 678-384-3480.