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Are Your Kids Suffering from Allergies? Ontario Lau, MD, Otolaryngologist, Answers Questions Every Parent has About Allergies


Spring is here and for most of us, it comes with a feeling of joy that warmer weather is on the way. For others, the start of spring means something entirely different, the start of allergy season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Allergies can be especially concerning for parents because allergies can develop seemingly out of nowhere and serious allergic reactions can lead to an emergency situation. It’s important to understand what allergies are, the causes, and the best way to treat them.     


What  is an allergy?

An allergy, hay fever, or, more precisely, allergic rhinitis, is a condition where the immune system forms antibodies to normal substances in our surroundings.  When we are exposed to those substances again, the antibodies react with them. The reaction releases antihistamines and other inflammatory agents. The inflammation causes your nose to become stuffy, runny, itchy and will eventually cause sneezing.


What causes environmental allergies?

Most people think an allergic reaction from being outside is caused by pollen, but that’s not always the case. Anything small but abundant enough in the air to be inhaled by the nose and interact with our immune system can be an allergen. Common ones include animal dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen.  Trees and grasses pollinated by the wind can trigger allergic reactions as well. Bright colored flowers, such as roses and lilacs, often  have their  pollen content  carried away by insects. The pollen they produce is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.


Are allergies becoming more common?

Yes, allergies are in fact becoming more common due to advancements we’ve made as a society. As the quality of modern sanitation has improved over the years, it’s decreased  our exposure to germs. Since our immune system is no longer occupied by  making disease fighting antibodies,  it makes allergy causing antibodies instead.


What are the treatment options?

If you or your children have allergies, don’t fret, there are a lot of different treatment options out there to help manage symptoms.   Antihistamines, such as Claritin or Zyrtec, can block the action of histamine (the irritant) and bring fast relief, but only for a short period of time. For longer lasting relief, nasal steroids, like Flonase, can be applied in the nose. In general, nasal steroids stay in the nose and are safe to use long term.  You can also  treat the allergic response of the immune system itself with an allergy shot. Just keep in mind that while the shot works well, it takes months  to kick in.

I am not better after taking all these allergy medications, what should I do?

Sometimes the reason why allergy medications aren’t working for you or your children is because allergies aren’t actually causing the symptoms. Many other disorders have symptoms mimicking the symptoms you have with allergies. Your nose is an area best examined with specialized equipment, so if your symptoms persist despite using over the counter (OTC) medication, be sure to visit an Otolaryngologist or ENT for proper evaluation. An ear, nose, and throat doctor can assess your symptoms and provide you with the correct treatment.


Just by being aware of allergy symptoms can help you determine if you or your children are suffering from springtime allergies or another disorder. If symptoms are mild, try OTC treatment methods. If you or your children are experiencing more severe symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment with an ENT so we can assess.


Ontario Lau, MD, earned his Medical Degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN and completed his Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Lau is Board Certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and is providing care to patients in Monroe and West Nyack.