You can spot them from across the room - tissue in hand, sneezing, sniffling, blowing their nose, tearing, and rubbing their eyes. This is a common presentation for millions of children and adults who suffer from the misery of allergies. If fortunate, these symptoms are but a minor inconvenience, but, if severe, they can significantly affect one’s quality of life.
Allergies involving the nose (rhinitis) and eyes (conjunctivitis) are almost always caused by contact of an offending “allergen” to the mucous membrane lining of the nose or eyes. Constant exposure for the allergic individual can cause daily symptoms, resulting in what your physician would diagnose as persistent, chronic, or perennial allergic rhinitis. Common allergens responsible for these chronic symptoms may include house dust mites, mold spores, indoor pets, cockroach allergen, or feathers.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can also be acute or intermittent, presenting only when one is exposed to a relevant allergen. One of the most common presentations of allergies is seasonal allergic rhinitis or “hay fever”. As its name implies, symptoms will present during the pollen seasons, most typically in the spring during the tree and grass pollinating times, and in the fall when ragweed and other weed pollens are present.
The most common allergy symptoms from inhaled allergens, which may be present daily or intermittently, include:
Food allergies can present with many different symptoms. They can range from mild to serious and they can present immediately or be delayed. Common symptoms may include:
Children usually have the same symptoms as adults. Newborns and infants, on the other hand, often exhibit irritability (colic), increased spitting, and even projectile vomiting upon ingestion of a food allergen. Many infants and children diagnosed as having reflux are later found to have food allergies.
The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. The most common causes of anaphylaxis include the ingestion of a highly allergenic food, such as peanuts, tree nuts, and shell-fish, or a medicine. The sting of a yellow jacket, wasp, hornet, or honeybee, or the bite of a fire ant can also result in a severe allergic reaction in a susceptible individual.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis vary from person to person. For some, they may be mild and include only generalized itching and urticaria (hives). In more severe reactions, however, they can include involvement of the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems, and can be fatal if not treated quickly and aggressively by the administration of epinephrine. Epinephrine can be self injected with the use of an EpiPen or Twinject. Symptoms of full blown anaphylaxis may include:
Allergy symptoms can be obvious or quite subtle. If you or your child have recurrent, chronic, or difficult to treat symptoms which may be caused by allergies, consult a board certified allergist for diagnosis and treatment.