Stories about: seasonal allergies

Sneezin’s’ greetings: How to avoid holiday allergy triggers

By Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston

The holidays are a lot of fun for children and adults alike, but for those with allergies and asthma the season can be a little difficult at times. Homemade treats, seasonal decorations and visiting friends and family can all be potential allergy and/or asthma triggers. Here are a few easy ways to avoid some of the more common offenders this winter.

Holiday food

Holiday celebrations are often filled with new and different foods. From plates of cookies to potlucks where everyone brings their favorite dish, this time of year presents plenty of opportunities for people with food allergies to be exposed to foods that could cause reactions. Peanuts and tree nuts in baked goods are the most obvious risks, but these same treats may also contain eggs or milk―common triggers for people with food allergies, especially younger children.

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MyViewPoints: Sharing information, connecting communities

Adrienne found online communities helpful when recovering from Lyme disease

About two years ago I became very sick. After dealing with illness for a number of months I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. Suddenly I had an explanation for all the symptoms I was feeling: aches and pains, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, memory loss, upset stomachs, anxiety, depression.

I was lucky to find a great local doctor and have a supportive network of friends and family to lean on. I took my prescribed antibiotics and felt better. I took time off from work and gave my body time to heal. Both played into my eventual recovery, as did the support network I found online. By connecting with an online Lyme disease community I learned what hurdles other people like me were facing, and how they beat (or at least coped with) those hurdles. I asked questions like what homeopathic remedies worked best for them? How did they alleviate anxiety? How were they able to ease the upset stomachaches caused by their antibiotics?

I was helping myself get better, and after a while started sharing my own remedies and coping mechanisms. The back and forth developed into strong, supportive relationships that were very important to me. They didn’t take the place of a trip to the doctor’s office or real life bonds I had, but it was so helpful to have access to people who understood my ups and downs, didn’t mind my occasional venting and were so eager to share information.

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Seasonal allergies: More than itchy eyes and sneezing

Spring has sprung early this year, which means allergy season will likely happen early as well. But for some kids allergies don’t cause itchy eyes and sneezing, they cause something not typically thought of as an allergic reaction: Eczema.

Just like seasonal allergies, also known as “hay fever,” eczema (or atopic dermatitis), occurs when a person with allergies comes in contact with triggers like pollen, dust mites or pet dander. But instead of the nose, lungs and eyes being affected, some people get dry, itchy, scaly skin and rashes on their cheeks, arms and legs. In the early spring, when pollen counts are high, it can be particularly bad for some people. The itching tends to get worse at night leading to many sleepless nights for some families.

“Depending on the severity of the case, eczema can be a real problem for some children and their parents, ” says Karol Timmons, RN, MS, CPNP, an eczema expert and pediatric nurse practitioner at the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston. “In many cases the condition gets better as the child gets older, but for some kids it takes years of prevention and treatment to keep it from negatively affecting a child and family.”  

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Managing your child’s springtime allergies

By Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston

As the days get longer and warmer, most people’s thoughts turn to baseball, barbecues and breaking out their summer clothes. It’s a carefree time for many, but as an allergist spring is my busy season. In the northeast trees pollinate first, which means many allergy sufferers notice symptoms as early as April. (After an unseasonably warm winter like this one, it can happen even earlier.) Grass pollen season arrives in the late spring and continues through June. Ragweed is the dominant fall allergen and is typically present from August until the first hard freeze.

Because allergies and colds share symptoms many parents have a hard time telling the two apart. Both allergies and colds (also known as viral infections) can lead to runny noses, nasal congestion and sneezing. But the main difference between the two is that colds tend to last only for a few days, where allergy symptoms last for much longer. Allergies also tend to cause an itchiness or irritation in the eyes and nose, and colds typically don’t. So if your child’s sneezing and sniffling lasts for more than a week and his eyes and nose are itching he most likely has seasonal allergies and not a cold.

When they’re not being mistaken for colds, seasonal allergies are often called “hay fever” but that’s a misleading term— allergies won’t cause a fever and hay is not a cause. But despite those inaccuracies, hay fever is a pretty telling description considering how miserable allergies can make you feel. Depending on how severe a person’s allergies are, their symptoms can be as bad (or worse) than the flu. Studies show that during pollen season school attendance and performance for children with allergies suffers significantly.

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