Children can be troubled with nasal allergies. It is a common medical condition in young children. Some children are more prone to allergies than others. This could be linked to genetics or environmental factors to which they are predisposed. Unfortunately, parents don’t always have the power to control the entire surroundings which their kids are exposed to. The most sensible measure to follow is early identification and a focus on improving the troublesome symptoms.
Missed school days can negatively impact your child. Nasal allergies although not life threatening, reduces your child’s quality of life. If your child is constantly struggling with a runny nose or sneezing frequently, it’s time to take control of the situation by consulting a good ENT doctor who has experience in paediatric ENT. A highly acclaimed medical facility in Singapore treating children with nasal allergies is The ENT Clinic.
What is Paediatric allergic rhinitis ?
Nasal allergy or hay fever, medically termed as allergic rhinitis, is when your child has an abnormal inflammatory reaction in the upper respiratory area involving the nose. Such episodes occur when your child is exposed to allergens or irritants, present in the air. These irritants over stimulate your child’s immune system, to produce pro-inflammatory factors called histamine and mast cells which induces an inflammatory action in the lining of the nasal cavity. Sensitive children when exposed to such allergens react within minutes showing signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis in children is highly prevalent. A study conducted in Singapore indicated that children in the age group of 4 to 6 years had a prevalence of 25 .3 % with a cumulative prevalence of 42.7% . Singaporean school children in the age group 6 to 7 years also reported an incident rate of 25.5%.
What are the types of allergic rhinitis faced by children ?
Your child can face two types of nasal allergies:
- Seasonal: Sensitised children when exposed to seasonal airborne allergens can have inflammatory reactions in their upper airways. For example pollen from weed, mold spores and grass in the Spring and early Fall
- Perennial: Younger children may face nasal allergies round the year. This could be due to common allergens present in houses like dust mites, pet hair and cockroaches. Dust mite allergy is widely observed in Singapore.
What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?
The common symptoms which your child can encounter are:
- Excessive nasal secretions
- Sneezing and sniffing
- Nasal congestion and obstruction
- Itchiness in nose, throat, eyes and mouth
- Watery eyes
- Sinus congestion and fullness in ears
What are the common irritants which can trigger allergic rhinitis in children?
- House dust which includes mold and dust mites
- Pollens from trees and weeds (seasonal)
- Pets like cats, dogs and rabbits have allergens
- Cigarette smoke and air pollutants like car exhaust
- Laundry detergents and cleaning solutions
- Hair sprays, cosmetics and perfumes with strong odours
How is allergic rhinitis detected in your child?
An ENT doctor is proficient in diagnosing your child’s allergic rhinitis. The physician will review your child’s symptoms and investigate through your family medical history. The purpose is to understand if symptoms intensify when exposed to certain irritants or if symptoms spike at a certain period of the year.
Your ENT specialist will perform a nasal examination using an instrument called the auriscope to scan for the presence of swollen nasal tissues. Persistent rubbing on the nasal bridge due to itchiness can reveal a nasal crease on the exterior too. Dark circles under the eyes are another sign.
To confirm which allergen is causing your child’s allergic rhinitis, your doctor might suggest the tests below:
- Skin prick test: In this case a panel of allergens are placed on the child’s arm. With a needle these allergens are introduced to the child’s body through a small prick to the skin surface. If your child is allergic to any of the chosen allergens then the child will develop a small itchy spot. This test helps identify the allergens.
- Blood test: Performing a blood test to check your child’s IgE antibody levels is another way. This antibody increases when it is exposed to a suspected allergen.
Commercial allergen testing is not recommended as it is generally of a lower standard to that of an accredited medical setting. It is important to consult an ENT doctor who can relate the results to your child’s symptoms and medical history.
How is allergic rhinitis treated in your child?
The goal in treating nasal allergy is preventing allergen exposure or treating the symptoms.
- Allergen avoidance: Staying away from seasonal allergens and manipulating the perennial allergens like dust mites is recommended. Advice to remove pets from homes is another. However, avoiding allergens may not always be practical.
- Pharmacological treatment : Controlling allergy symptoms helps in improving the quality of life in your child. The doctor can prescribe oral antihistamines, nasal sprays with steroids, decongestants and topical antihistamines as first line agents to effectively manage the disease.
- Allergen Immunotherapy (de-sensitisation) : While most kids find relief through allergen avoidance and pharmacotherapy therapy, a significant minority will still have trouble. These kids will benefit from immunotherapy where allergens are gradually introduced to their bodies helping the immune system to be less sensitive to such allergens.
The ENT Clinic is one of the primary choices to address allergies in Singapore in both children and adults. The experienced ENT doctors of Dr Jeeve Kanagalingam, Dr Chris Hobbs and Dr Annabelle Leong practice evidence-based medicine at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Center and Gleneagles Hospital and can effectively manage your allergic rhinitis.