If your child seems to constantly have the sniffles or sneezes a lot, he or she may have allergic rhinitis. This is an allergic reaction that occurs in the nasal passages and sinuses of people who are sensitive to specific allergens, such as pet dander, pollen, mold, and dust mites.
Compounding the concern is the fact that many people who have allergic rhinitis are also prone to other allergic reactions, such as asthma. Fortunately, there are tests and treatments available for allergic rhinitis, which may help your little one breathe better and feel better. Here's what you need to know.
Allergy testing to determine which allergen is causing problems
It's incredible that these allergens, some of which are so small they can only be seen with a microscope, can cause allergic people's sinuses to produce enough histamine to make breathing through the nose difficult. Because of this, you won't be able to identify the allergens that are causing your child's allergic reactions. Fortunately, an allergy doctor (immunologist) can test your child to determine what they are sensitive to.
First, the allergy doctor will perform a physical examination and get a detailed history of your child's health and your environment at home and other places where your child has had allergic reactions. He or she will use that information to determine which allergens to include in skin prick testing. To do this testing, the doctor will place a minuscule amount of the suspect allergens in small prick marks on your child's skin. The size of the resulting marks will indicate whether or not your child is allergic to the various allergens and to what extent.
Depending on the age of your child and the protocols in place at the doctor's office, you may be able to hold your child in your lap while the skin prick test is taking place. Be sure to ask the receptionist about which types of medications to avoid before the testing procedure. False readings could occur when an antihistamine is in the body, even if it's a small amount.
Treatment to alleviate symptoms and control reactions
The doctor will use the test results to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Of course, alleviating the current symptoms is the first thing that will need to be taken care of. This can be done with antihistamine-containing nasal sprays, such as fluticasone nasal spray, and oral antihistamine products. Click here for info on these products. Once the symptoms are alleviated, the allergist can determine a management plan to prevent the return of symptoms by using medication.
The number one key thing to do is to remove as much of the offending allergen(s) from the home as possible, particularly in your child's bedroom where he or she spends the majority of consecutive hours. If possible, remove carpeting and replace it with hard flooring because carpeting can easily trap allergens. Draperies in the bedroom should be avoided as they also trap allergens.
Consider installing a whole-house HEPA filter. If that's not possible due to finances or you live in a rental unit, there are room-sized HEPA air cleaners that can help reduce the amount of allergens in the home. The allergist may give you recommendations of the types of air filters that can benefit your child the most based on their particular allergy.
It's a good idea to not have your child in the home while these modifications are taking place due to the amount of allergens that can get kicked up, particularly regarding dust mites and mold spores. If you are unable to do this, make sure your child has their preventative medication in full doses around the clock until the dust settles, so to speak, particularly their fluticasone nasal spray, which blocks histamine from releasing.