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Articles : A to Z Conditions (including Pertussis)
Hay Fever: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder, M.D.

 Excerpt from Natural Baby and Childcare

In a medical journal article on spring allergies, an astute doctor writes, "Nasal diseases have sometimes been regarded as disorders that are unimportant ... to those who do not have them." If your child suffers from hay fever (also know as allergic rhinitis), you're one of many who can relate to the good doctor. Seasonal allergies affect nearly one in ten Americans; some experts estimate that the number is as high as 20 percent. (Strangely, allergic rhinitis appears to be most common among the young and affluent.

While spring allergies may not pose a life or death situation, symptoms can be so severe that they affect a child's quality of life and ability to play and work in school. Allergies can disturb sleep, impair concentration and cause emotional problems. Conventional medicine has many anti-allergy treatments available, but these drugs often come with annoying side effects like drowsiness and dry mouth. Hay fever, known as allergic rhinitis, is common in both young and old. Familiar annoying symptoms of hay fever run the gamut and usually center around the nose - watery runny nose, stuffed nose, sneezing, watery eyes, post nasal drip, itching in the throat, nose and eyes. In addition there can be a horizontal crease at the top of the nose from rubbing the nose, dark circles under the eyes and cough or wheeze. Seasonal allergies appear at different times of the year, such as springtime allergies (i.e. due to pollens in the air). While perennial complaints are year round (dust, mold, animal dander, second hand tobacco smoke, food allergies including milk and food additives, and pollution). Children who have a family history of allergies are more prone to having allergies. Besides hay fever, eczema and asthma are also common. Allergies can also make a child susceptible to coming down with infections such as sinus or ear.

Allergies occur when a substance, typically nontoxic such as pollen, enters the body and for some reason the body misreads it as being harmful. As a result, the body overreacts with an allergic immune response that can range from mild to severe. Typically, many of these substances in the air such as pollens are not toxic. However, in some children, there is a chain reaction that releases histamine from the cells that gives the familiar but annoying allergy symptoms. It has been suggested that this oversensitivity causes a dysfunction in the immune system which may be linked to antibiotics, vaccines, and stress in addition to family predisposition. According to Gary B. Huffnagle, Ph.D., an associate professor of internal medicine and of microbiology and immunology in the University of Michigan Medical School. "Antibiotics knock out bacteria in the gut, allowing fungi to take over temporarily until the bacteria grow back after the antibiotics are stopped. Our research indicates that altering intestinal microflora this way can lead to changes in the entire immune system, which may produce symptoms elsewhere in the body." If confirmed in human clinical studies, Huffnagle believes his research findings could help explain why cases of chronic inflammatory diseases, like asthma and allergies, have been increasing rapidly over the last 40 years - a time period that corresponds with widespread use of antibiotics."

Pollens are minute yellow seeds blown from the wind, they come from the middle of the flower. Allergies from dust mite droppings permeate the air like pollen. They are more pronounced in warm humid weather. On the other hand, mold is found in houses especially in the cool dark areas. Mold spores are released into the air causing allergic reactions.

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