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Allergic rhinitis (Hay Fever)

What is it?

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose. Inhaling allergens, which are substances that trigger an allergic response, usually causes it.

Common allergens include:
  • Outdoor
    • Weeds such as ragweed, sagebrush, and redroot pigweed
    • Grasses such as Timothy grass, Kentucky bluegrass, and Johnson grasses
    • Trees such as walnut, oak, and ash
    • Molds such as cladosporium and alternaria
  • Indoor
    • Pet dander
    • Cockroach droppings
    • Dust mites
    • Smoke
    • Molds such as mucor, aspergillus and penicillium

Who is affected?

If either parent has allergies, then your child is more likely to develop an allergy too.

What are the symptoms?

The onset of symptoms begins almost immediately after exposure and lasts as long as your child is exposed to the allergen Symptoms include:

  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery and itchy eyes

What can I do to prevent and treat it?

Take these steps to reduce your child's exposure to allergens:

  • Vacuum and dust once or twice a week.
    • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or a special double thickness bag.
    • Use a wet vacuum cleaner when possible.
    • Damp-mop hard (tile or hardwood) floors once a day.
    • Wiping hard surfaces with a dry cloth removes up to 70% of dust mite and animal dander allergens using a moist cloth can remove up to 90% of these allergens.
  • Remove carpets and use throw rugs. If you do not want to remove carpeting from your home consider removing it only from the bedroom.
  • Remove stuffed animals from sleeping area.
  • Do not use window or attic fans, which draw air containing dust, pollen, mold spores, and other allergens into your home.
  • Use air-conditioning so that you do not have to open windows.
  • Use zippered, dust-proof covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs.
  • Confine the areas that pets are allowed in and groom them outdoors.
  • Avoid smoke from any sources including fireplaces and kerosene heaters.
  • Change bed linens weekly and wash in hot water
  • Dry clothes in a clothes dryer on a high setting.
  • Keep your child indoors when mold spore and pollen counts are at a peak.
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • Wash off after outdoor activity to avoid bringing allergens into your home.

Over-the-counter medications can be used to treat the symptoms:

  • Antihistamines help control allergies.
  • Decongestants can reduce blockage by narrowing blood vessels and allowing nasal congestion to clear.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants can be found separately or together in products and are available in various forms like nose sprays, liquids, and pills.
  • Consult a pharmacist or health care provider for recommended dosing of any OTC medications.

The following are examples of OTC medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products
Seasonal and year-round allergies:
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itching of the nose or throat
  • Watering, itchy eyes
Antihistamine

Loratadine
Example: Alavert®
(Indicted for children six years old or older. For treating children under the age of six consult a health care provider.)

Diphenhydramine HCL
(Indicted for children six years old or older. For treating children under the age of six consult a health care provider.)

Chlorpheniramine Maleate
(Consult your physician for the age for which this medication is indicated)

Nasal congestion
"Stopped - up" ears
Nasal Decongestant

Pseudoephedrine
Example: Sudafed®

Pseudoephedrine Sulfate
Example: Drixoral Decongestant®
(Indicated for children 3 months old and older. Drops should be used for children between the ages of 3 months and 2 years old.)

Allergy symptom prevention
Mast cell stabilizer - prevent allergy symptoms Cromolyn Sodium
Example: NasalCrom®
(Indicted for children six years old or older. For treating children under the age of six consult a health care provider.)

* Active ingredients: ingredients in a medication that produce a therapeutic response

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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