More than just a runny nose
The impact of allergic rhinitis, particularly on children, adds up to a lot more than escalating Kleenex costs. “No child dies from hay fever—there’s no mortality— but there is signifi cant morbidity,” says Michael S. Blaiss, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tenn., and past president of the ACAAI. For starters, children with allergic rhinitis are more likely to develop asthma—and if you don’t treat an asthmatic child’s nasal allergies, their asthma worsens, Blaiss says.
Symptoms can also lead to chronic ear problems. “Ear infection is one of the most common conditions in the pediatric population, and chronic fl uid behind the ear may be related to their nasal allergies,” Blaiss notes. Sinus disease has also been linked to allergic rhinitis, as has sleep apnea. “A lot of the snoring children do—mouth breathing—can be related to nasal allergies,” Blaiss says. “It’s never normal for a child to be chronically snoring.”
Meanwhile, when you consider how symptoms interfere with sleep, nasal allergies can be detrimental to a child’s quality of life. “Children with allergic rhinitis don’t sleep well,” Blaiss says. “Obviously that has a major effect on the child’s ability to function during the day, and you get into problems associated with sleep deprivation—from poorer performance in school to hyperactivity.”
The complications can even extend to your little one’s ability to socialize. “Children with allergic rhinitis often experience increased shyness and anxiety,” says Myron J. Zitt, M.D., past president of the ACAAI and a practicing allergist at Mid-Island Allergy in Plainview, N.Y. Some studies have also found a higher incidence of allergies in children diagnosed with ADHD. “I won’t say allergic rhinitis is a cause of ADHD, but allergies may be worsening the condition or may be a contributory factor,” Blaiss notes.