Q: My daughter is 10 and has allergies to pollen, dust, cats and peanuts. In the months of her allergies (May through September) she will sneeze day or night. Lately, every night around 3 a.m. she is up and sneezing – and her biggest “allergy months” lie just ahead.
We don’t have cats, we don’t smoke in the house, there is no carpet in her room. Antihistamines help, however, I’m worried that giving my daughter antihistamines 365 days a year is not healthy. What should we do?
Dr. Watson: I will assume your child is allergic to tree pollens, grass pollens and weed pollens, given the months of symptoms. From an environment point of view, two suggestions come to mind. First, make sure your child’s bedroom windows aren’t open at night and use air conditioning to create a reduced-allergen environment. I live in Atlantic Canada, where drying clothing outside is common practice. For those with pollen allergies, this is not recommended. Your child could have indirect exposure to allergens in the bedding.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall it may be appropriate to use a topical nasal corticosteroid to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. There are many products, including new ones that are tasteless and have minimal adverse effects. This may decrease your daughter’s reliance on antihistamines.
However, non-sedating antihistamines can be a most helpful addition if symptoms occur while using a nasal corticosteroid. The best strategy is to be prepared. Please talk to your doctor or allergist about the upcoming seasons.
Dr. Wade Watson is a pediatric allergist and Professor of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University. He is also the head of the Division of Allergy at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.