WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — The mild winter of 2012 and this summer's spikes in temperature might mean that fall allergies could start early.
“Given the many variables – rain, for example — and botanical cycles, it is difficult to use past weather to predict seasonal allergy,” said Dr. Craig Osleeb, a pediatrician specializing in allergy and immunology with Northern Westchester Hospital. “But that being said, cold dry air helps reduce mold and dust mite counts, and the relatively warm winter may have resulted in increased suffering of those allergic to these allergens.”
During the fall, male plants release pollen to reproduce. When pollen — or other allergy triggers – enter into the nose, some people's immune systems mistakenly see them as foreign invaders, which causes the release of antibodies into the bloodstream. Antibodies, which attack bacteria and viruses, focus on the allergens and cause histamines to be released. Histamines trigger allergic symptoms, such as runny noses and itchy eyes. But these symptoms can become more severe and result in asthma.
And, said Dr. Hossein Sadeghi, pediatric pulmonologist at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Conn., “We barely had a break from the spring allergy season this year.” This, he said, can “exacerbate asthma symptoms, particularly in young children."
Asthma, chronic inflammation of the airways, is among the most common disorders in childhood. It has an affect on an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Asthma can vary from intermittent to severe persistent, and these asthma classifications can change from season to season, which makes it essential for children to be evaluated regularly.
Sadeghi recommends parents monitor their children's symptoms and seek medical input to determine whether they are showing signs of asthma or another medical condition.
Symptoms, said Sadeghi, can include wheezing and a cough that seems worse particularly at night, as well as recurrent difficulty in breathing and chest tightness. These can be aggravated by indoor allergens as well, such as a fireplace or exposure to cigarette smoke, viral infections and pet dander.
In both children and adults, diagnosing asthma and its severity help determines which medication can be most effective in treating and managing the condition, said Sadeghi. Asthma medications fall into two general categories: controller or preventive medicines that are taken every day to control and prevent asthma symptoms, and reliever or rescue medications, which are used to treat symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
At least the cold weather – if it comes this winter – could provide some relief to seasonal allergy sufferers.