Tips on how multi-juggling mums manage their children’s allergic rhinitis

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Ang Chiew Ting (@bongqiuqiu), Bella Koh (@catslavery) and Christy Lau share tips for mums on how to manage Allergic Rhinitis.

Motherhood comes with equal portions of joy and challenges. It’s easy to embrace the beauty of raising children, but not so easy to deal with the tough parts. One of the greatest challenges of motherhood has to be seeing your little one struggle with common illnesses like colds, flu and allergies. Not knowing how to relieve symptoms like night-time sniffling or blocked nose can be both heart-wrenching and tiring. To add to this, the question of colds vs allergies vs flu can be confusing to many mums because of their similarities. But there are some hallmark symptoms of allergic rhinitis – a condition affecting up to 40% of schoolchildren in Singapore – that many mums aren’t aware of.

Thankfully, there are solutions to alleviate symptoms, which you’ll learn about in this article, and keep the condition at bay! We spoke to three mums who shared with us how they deal with allergic rhinitis.

Colds vs Allergies vs Flu: Singapore Mums Share Their Experiences

Mums often don’t know if their child is suffering from allergic rhinitis. We are all familiar with the common cold, but spotting allergic rhinitis can be trickier. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a condition where your body’s immune system reacts to a trigger that you’re allergic to (like dust mites, animal dander, mold, or pollen). Unfortunately, this response can be very similar to cold symptoms.

Cold and allergies share many similarities. Both can have runny nose, blocked nose and sneezing symptoms. But there is a simple way to tell the difference: focus on the unique symptoms. According to Healthline:

Colds usually cause fatigue, aches and pains, sore throat.

Allergies usually cause itchy eyes and skin rashes (hives).

What’s more, because allergic rhinitis is an allergy, it tends to be linked to a trigger. So exposure to certain things may cause an onset of allergic rhinitis, or even the time of year, as is the case with pollen allergies. 

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Ang Chiew Ting, alias @bongqiuqiu, a popular mummy influencer in Singapore’s blogging scene, shares how she often took her daughter, Meredith, to the doctor under the impression that it was a common cold.

Chiew Ting recounts how she had to deal with many sleepless nights. “It starts from the nose and then it manifests into something more serious like itchy skin rash or itchy eyes. Sometimes, it lasts for a long time. She is unable to sleep well. Neither am I.”

Chiew Ting’s experience shows us why it’s important to understand colds vs allergies vs flu. If allergic rhinitis is not rightfully identified and treated, it can escalate into something more serious, like worsening of asthma symptoms, sinusitis, and ear infections.

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Bella Koh, alias @catslavery, a food stylist who runs an online shop, also has a child with allergic rhinitis. She shares with us that when you see clear and watery mucus, it’s usually an indication of allergic rhinitis. Further, unlike flu, allergic rhinitis is not typically accompanied by a fever.

Allergic rhinitis can also lead to swollen and puffy eyes. Chiew Ting added that when she posted pictures of her daughter online, people often commented on her red and swollen eyes, enquiring why she had “such serious eyebags”. 

Triggers of Allergic Rhinitis

Even the most innocuous things can trigger allergic rhinitis. Pet fur, house dust mites, haze, and air-conditioning are just a few of the many possibilities.

Mums can vacuum and clean the house obsessively, or remove pets from the household. But trying to prevent allergic rhinitis by keeping your child away from possible triggers is a Herculean, if not impossible, task!

Why the Need for Medication?

Given a choice, mums would rather not medicate their children. However, allergic rhinitis should be kept under control.

For one, lack of sleep takes its toll on everyone. Whether you’re a working mum or a stay-at-home mum, sleep is of paramount importance. And we all know that a sleep-deprived child, awake around the clock from runny or blocked nose and sneezing will have difficulties in school – while caring for your child will leave you feeling and looking drained.

Allergic rhinitis can also lead to more serious consequences. Chiew Ting shared how she initially tried vitamins and home remedies without avail. When her daughter was very irritable due to red, itchy eyes, Chiew Ting knew she needed proper medication.

Christy, a full-time working mum of two, emphasises how failing to keep allergic rhinitis under control led to worsening of her son Drake’s asthma. “Although it [allergic rhinitis] sounds simple and it affects a lot of people, it can be quite serious if you don’t manage it properly,” she tells us.

Allergies cannot be cured, but their symptoms can be managed. Antihistamines are often used as first line therapy for allergic rhinitis. They reduce symptoms by blocking the effects of histamines – chemicals which are released when your child comes in contact with an allergen.  

What Mums look out for when selecting an antihistamine to relieve their child’s allergies

• Taste

“I don’t need to fight her and force it down with a syringe unlike some medicine with an unpleasant taste,” Chiew Ting shares. She says her children prefer medication with a fruity taste – minty or bitter tasting medication never goes down well with them.

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• Non-Drowsy 

Christy adds that it is important for the medication to be non-drowsy. “As I don’t’ have a helper, I can’t afford to keep taking leave and staying at home so if they can take the medication that is non-drowsy, they can just go on with their daily activities,” she says.

• Sugar-Free

Bella’s concerns mirror many of ours, with our greater understanding of how sugar affects our bodies. She asserts that her most important consideration is for the medication to be sugar-free.

Tips from Mums

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All three mums unanimously agree that understanding allergic rhinitis and discovering proper medication changed their lives. Given that the examination and holiday season is approaching, they advise to always have medication on-hand and to not hesitate should your child need it. As always, consult your doctor or paediatrician first.

Chiew Ting advises that it’s easier and more cost-efficient to nip the problem in the bud. “Control it when it’s small,” she tells us.

Here’s a bonus! Bella remarked that contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to give up your pets if your child has allergic rhinitis. Keeping it under control means that you can continue living with your beloved fur babies.

“I don’t think we should stop them from doing something that they love,” Bella says, a sentiment that encapsulates what the right management for your child’s allergic rhinitis can do for you and your family.

With these helpful tips, you too can say #ByeByeAllergies! Knowing how to help your child deal with allergic rhinitis lets you say #AllergiesNoProblem with confidence. Don't let allergies take their shine away!

For further information, please consult your­­­­ doctor or pharmacist.

A health service message brought to you by GlaxoSmithKline.

Christy Lau is an employee of GlaxoSmithKline.

Sources:

  1. Ministry of Health. 2010 Clinical Practice Guidelines – Management of Rhinosinusitis and Allergic Rhinitis.
  2. (2017, June). Allergic Rhinitis. Accessed October 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/allergic-rhinitis#symptoms
  3. (2018, September). Allergies: Allergies or Cold. Accessed October 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/allergies-or-cold#allergies
  4. News in Health. (2014, October). Cold, Flu, or Allergy. Accessed October 2018 from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/10/cold-flu-or-allergy
  5. (2017, March). Allergies, Cold or Flu. Accessed October 2018 from https://www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-nose-tool/allergies-or-cold
  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy Facts and Figures. Accessed from http://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/
  7. World Allergy Organization. (2015, June). In-Depth Review of Allergic Rhinitis. Accessed October 2018 from http://www.worldallergy.org/education-and-programs/education/allergic-disease-resource-center/professionals/in-depth-review-of-allergic-rhinitis

SG/ALG/0005/18 Approved 01/11/18