Hay fever (which is actually misnamed—the symptoms are not caused by hay and don’t include fever) typically starts in the early school years, but it can sometimes occur as early as the second year of life. A child is more likely to develop hay fever if his parents and other family members also have allergies. The condition is more common in boys than it is in girls (almost 2:1). In children, hay fever may follow an early period in life marked by eczema and other symptoms caused by food allergy. In many cases, sneezing; nonstop runny, itchy nose; and itchy eyes set in just as eczema starts to fade.
A family history of allergies is an important factor in the development of allergic rhinitis, especially when the symptoms appear during childhood. However, the rate of hay fever, like that of asthma, appears to be increasing all over the world. The reason for this increase is not fully understood.
These are the typical symptoms and signs of allergic rhinitis, a condition commonly known as hay fever and often recognized as allergies.
- Sneezing many times in a row
- Clear runny nose
- Blocked-up nose, mouth breathing
- Itching and rubbing of the nose and eyes
- Having to stay near the tissue box
It’s That Time Again
You may have come to dread a particular time of the year—usually spring or fall—because like clockwork, that’s when your child’s nose, eyes, mouth, and ears start to itch; he sneezes many times in a row several times a day—some doctors describe it as “machine-gun sneezing”; and his nose is stuffed up and runs with a watery discharge from morning to night. In such cases, symptoms are most often triggered by allergies to pollens and spores of seasonal plants and fungi.
In most parts of the United States, trees release their pollen in the spring, grasses in the late spring and summer, and weeds—particularly ragweed, perhaps the most notorious plant allergen of all—in the early fall. Mold spores are at their highest levels and therefore are the biggest problem for people with allergies when a rainy, damp, or foggy spell is followed by a warm, dry, windy period. These conditions can occur at any time, depending on where you live. In some areas, outdoor mold levels are highest in the late summer and early fall. Fallen leaves and decaying vegetation also can lead to higher outdoor mold levels in the autumn.
The seasonal pattern of pollen release and plant growth lets you predict when symptoms are likely to appear. This helps you plan when to take whatever preventive action your pediatri¬cian may advise to lessen the effect.
Hay Fever Symptoms Should Not Include Pain
Although at times hay fever symptoms seem to grip every part of the body in a feeling of general misery, they do not usually cause actual pain. If your child complains of pain in the face or mouth, a sensation of pressure, or headache, consult your pediatrician. The symptoms may indicate sinusitis, a dental problem, or another condition requiring treatment.
Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma
Allergic rhinitis can stop a person from breathing through the nose, with its natural filters and air-warming system. Those with allergic rhinitis have an increased risk of asthma. One possible reason is that open-mouth breathing lets larger amounts of asthma triggers pass into the airways along with cooler, drier air, both of which can trigger asthma attacks, bringing on wheezing, coughing, and gasping for breath.