Sue Hubbard, M.D.

This has been a particularly bad allergy season and it seems like it's going to linger awhile. I've been seeing lots of children (as well as their parents) complaining of nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes.

The surge in allergies this year has been due to a very wet winter, and the weather this spring has brought erratic changes of temperature and lots of wind. This is the perfect storm for an "allergic cascade" to attack everyone's nasal mucosa.

Intranasal steroids have been shown to be best preventative and treatment for nasal allergy symptoms (allergic rhinitis). These steroid sprays have been used for the past 15 years, and clinical studies have shown they are superior to oral antihistamines.

Intranasal steroids function by inhibiting the production of chemical mediators, such as histamine and prostaglandin, which cause inflammation and mucus production. In other words, they're more of a preventative medication, while an antihistamine is treating the histamine that was released once you inhaled the offending tree or grass pollen. Intranasal steroids may also help eye allergy symptoms.

The biggest problem seems to be getting young kids to let you use a nose spray on them. The same holds true for members of the older tween and teen crowd, who often complain that they "just don't have the time to use (a spray) every day" (even though it must take all of 15 seconds to use one on yourself!)

Intranasal steroids have been shown to be effective within 3-12 hours, although they reach their maximum effectiveness after several days to weeks of use, so using a spray daily and throughout the allergy season will provide the maximum therapeutic effect.

Many different brands are available (all by prescription) and everyone seems to have their favorite. If one spray seems to bother your child due to the scent or the intensity of the spray, ask your doctor to try another brand. Many times, physicians have samples they can give you to try, then prescribe the one that's easiest to get your child to use. It may come by trial and error, but finding the right nasal steroid may ease your way through allergy season.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show.


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Health - Steroid Sprays Effective Weapons Against Nasal Allergy Symptoms