It is that time of year where the flowers are blooming, days are getting longer, kids are playing outside more… and the sneezing has commenced! I love Mobile and living in the South, but one of the downfalls is how many allergens are in the environment. Because of the humidity and more warm months in a year, pollen, dust, and mildew are more prevalent and cause more problems for those who suffer from allergies.

Some people have allergies and do not even realize it. It can be similar to a cold or sinus infection, and in little ones who cannot talk, it is even harder for parents to distinguish between these possibilities. There are some ways that, in general, you can differentiate an allergy from something else.

Allergies can last year round or during seasons such as spring. You cough generally more than you would think is necessary for the amount of drainage, and many times you sneeze with it. It generally is worse around whatever is triggering your allergies. For instance, someone allergic to dust will be worse inside or when they wake up each morning, and someone allergic to pollen will be worse every time they are outside or around a certain flower or tree. An itchy nose, itchy skin, or itchy, watery, and/or red eyes often accompany allergies.

Usually a viral upper respiratory infection, or common cold, only lasts 5-10 days. If the runny nose symptoms are lasting longer, it is usually a sinus infection or allergies or both. Many times sinusitis will have a headache with it. There are signs that sometimes can differentiate the three on exam by a physician.

The treatment of allergies is usually an antihistamine. If you are unsure if it is allergies or a cold, an easy trick is to try a dose of Benadryl. If the symptoms improve over the next four hours, then there is a good chance that it is allergies causing the problems. Benadryl only helps symptoms for about 4-6 hours before it is out of your system. If you need something that will last longer, Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra are good choices that last closer to 24 hours. For some people, adding a steroid nose spray helps to control allergies better when needed.

For little children and infants, suctioning the nose helps tremendously to treat a runny nose for any reason. For older children, using a sinus wash or netti pot will help drain the nose and sinuses and give some relief. It is sometimes difficult to remember or do, but is important to blow your nose out instead of sucking the congestion back in. Humidifiers and Vicks Vaporub usually help with the congestion as well.

Now that the winter season is ending, people are healthier and there are less viruses and illnesses going around. However, this is the season for allergies, which are not fun either. So identify the symptoms and try treating them. The best way to treat allergies is to eliminate whatever is causing it, but that is not always easy, so some medicines may help for some people. If you are unsure what is going on or have any questions, your pediatrician is a great resource and can identify and problems in the clinic.

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.