Terri writes: “My son always has a runny nose. I have been to an allergist and he said that he has pollen allergies. I am not too thrilled about having him on allergy meds all the time. Besides pollens, are there foods that can cause this runny nose? Any alternative ways of eliminating this problem?”
Health-E Responds: I took your question to the wonderful folks at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where pediatric allergist Ron Ferdman, M.D., provided this answer …
In general, foods are not a common cause of a chronically runny nose. Most food allergic reactions include skin rashes and gastrointestinal symptoms. Foods can cause respiratory symptoms, but they usually occur immediately after eating the food, and don’t cause a chronic runny nose.
Almost all the time, nasal allergies are due to airborne or inhalation allergens. Examples include plant pollens, dust mites, mold spores and animal dander. Grass pollen allergies are one of the most common causes.
In terms of treatment, the best treatment for any allergy is to eliminate, or at least minimize contact with, whatever is causing your allergies. Unfortunately, this is hard with pollens, especially in Los Angeles. Here the grass is green for most of the year – which means it is growing and producing pollen. Our grass season is longer than other areas of the country that have “real” seasons. You can protect the air inside your home by closing windows so the grass pollens don’t blow inside – especially during pollen seasons and times. You can run an air filter to filter out any pollens that enter your home. You can minimize unnecessary outdoor exposures by not hanging wet clothes outside to dry (the pollens stick to the wet clothes) and avoiding gardening or cultivation.
However, you can’t stay indoors forever – and you eventually have to go outside where you will be exposed to pollens.
To control symptoms due to exposures to allergens that can not be eliminated, there are two basic options: allergy medicines and allergy shots.
I understand parents’ hesitation to use daily medications, but fortunately, most allergy medications are very safe, even when used long-term, such as for years, and even when used in very young children. Most have essentially no serious side effects, and the side effects that do occur are usually mild and temporary. You would need to check with your doctor regarding the potential side effects of your particular medication.
Allergy shots (more accurately called “specific allergen immunotherapy”) are another possible treatment. With allergy shots, patients are given increasing concentrated injections (via a very, very small needle) of purified extracts of the allergens to which they are allergic, in this case grass pollens. The unique advantage of allergy shots is that over time the patient actually becomes desensitized – that is, their allergies become milder and can even disappear altogether. When effective, many people can decrease or even stop their medications, and can sometimes have years or even a lifetime without allergies. Allergy shots are effective for many inhalants (pollens, dust mites, animal dander) and for insect venom (bee sting) allergies. While generally very effective and safe, allergy shots require a large commitment from families/patients because they require frequent visits to the doctor’s office for injections, especially in beginning of treatment, and the total duration of treatment is usually between 3-5 years.
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