You’re not alone.  In fact, there’s an unprecedented world-wide rise in the number of children suffering from environmental allergies with symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, congestion, coughing, watery eyes, runny noses, general fatigue and irritability.

For parents, allergies can be a daily battle of dealing with symptoms, frustration with trying to find the cause and a continual search for solutions.

But, with an understanding of what your child may be reacting to and how their immune system is involved, you may find a way to stop your child’s seasonal cycle of suffering for good.

What is an Environmental Allergy?

An environmental allergy is a reaction to substances such as pollen, mold, pollutants or chemicals. Airborne pollen is the most common cause of seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Allergies can affect the respiratory tract, eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract and can trigger asthma.

Why Are More Children Getting Allergies?

The rates of allergies are increasing in all industrial developed countries. Scientists have long suspected that air pollution and climate change are primary culprits.

Mild winters are creating high levels of pollen as well as earlier and longer seasons.

“It means more misery for allergy sufferers because you’re looking at a longer time for exposure to pollen,” says Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a public health scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “All of these factors combine to create a really terrible allergy season.”

Scientists are also finding that traffic-related air pollutants, specifically, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, provoke chemical changes in airborne allergens that increase their potency!

“That synergy is really worrisome because of how many people in this country have asthma and rising rates of asthma,” says Rotkin-Ellman. “Ozone and pollen together are a very dangerous mixture. This will lead to more severe allergic reactions and more hospital visits.”

In the graph below from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pollen levels have been getting worse each year, for at least the last 20 years, as carbon dioxide levels rise:

allergy graph
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Reducing Exposure to Pollens

Billions of dollars are being spent as people try to find ways to block pollen from entering their airways.

This is especially true in Japan where the pollen levels are the result of Japanese Cedar and Hinoki Cypress trees that release their pollen all at once. Doctors have noticed that whereas they used to treat mainly teens for allergy symptoms, they are now seeing children as young as 5 with hay fever symptoms.

Masks are so commonplace, they have even become fashionable. And, as pollution and pollen are increasing, masks are being made with specialized filters to reduce PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers).  There are also goggles to cover the eyes, nose filter plugs and individual portable air filters worn like a necklace.

masks for allergiesCreative Commons: Matthew Kenwrick, 2009 Source: Flickr

Are Allergy Tests Helpful?

The standard allopathic medical diagnosis is made by conducting allergen tests from blood samples or skin tests with a prick of the suspected allergen. As many as 40 different substances can be tested at once.

Getting a diagnosis is often seen as the second to last step before solving the problem altogether: find out what’s causing the symptoms and then avoid it.  But because it is impossible to avoid the pollen, dander, dust and grasses that are most associated with environmental allergies, avoidance may not be an option.

“There is almost nowhere you can really go to get away from this,” said Stephen Apaliski, an allergist and author of “Beating Asthma: 7 Simple Principles.” He noted that physicians in the past recommended that people with allergies move to drier climates, but even those areas are increasingly dusted with pollen.

Instead, consider a diagnosis as more information: it eliminates the other substances you might have been suspecting and knowing what you are dealing with can bring peace of mind.

If Avoidance Is Not the Answer, What Is?

The difficulty of dealing with a child suffering from allergies can be overwhelming.  And, trying to avoid or eliminate sources may be impossible. Is there another solution?  Yes!

There is a different approach that solves allergies by addressing their true cause. Watch for our next post on Allergies coming soon.

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