By Adamos Chatzipanagis, paediatrician
What is allergic rhinitis?
This is a reaction that occurs in the nose when irritant airborne substances (allergens) cause histamine production. Histamine causes inflammation, and production of fluid.
How many children suffer from it?
About 20% of children suffer from allergic rhinitis. They often have other allergies, such as asthma and eczema, or have a family history of allergies.
What kinds of rhinitis are there?
Seasonal rhinitis, (hay fever) related to pollen, appears in older children.
All year round rhinitis usually affects young children.
Which allergens are usually responsible?
The usual causes include pollen, dust mites, mould, and animal hair.
What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?
Symptoms vary. The child may have congestion, catarrh, sneezing, an itchy nose, a bloody nose. Children with all year round rhinitis have difficulty breathing. They often snore, breathe through the mouth, feel tired, and suffer from otitis (ear ache).
How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?
The child’s medical history is taken, and he is examined by the paediatrician. Tests are not usually necessary.
How is allergic rhinitis treated?
The most important thing is for the child to avoid the allergens that affect him.
If the problem is in the house (dust, mould), drastic measures need to be taken with cleaning and hygiene, particularly in the child’s room.
Antihistamines combat symptoms. Some may cause drowsiness, so always consult your doctor.
Anti-allergic sprays and cortisone nasal sprays should be given to children with caution, and always with the guidance of the paediatrician.
Care is also needed with decongestant nose drops available in pharmacies. Consult the paediatrician.
If the allergy is severe, and does not respond to medication, the paediatrician may refer the child to an allergist. He may recommend immunotherapy, special treatment with regular injections for 3-5 years, which attempts to decrease the body’s reaction to the specific substance.
How is allergic rhinitis prevented?
Cleaner atmosphere, avoidance of pollution. Places with dust and/or mould should be avoided. Pets should be avoided, if there is a history of pet allergy.