GrapevineApril/May 2008 Issue

Diagnosing Pollen Allergies and Other Seasonal Allergies in Children

For over a year, my 11-year old son, Robby, sniffed and snorted every 15 to 20 seconds. Loudly. Without fail. SNIFF. SNORT. Driving in the car, eating his dinner, doing his homework, getting ready for bed. SNIFF. SNORT.

It drove me crazy. It really bugged my otherwise Zen-like husband. We’d routinely hand him a tissue and command him to blow his nose. But 15 seconds later, he’d be right back at it again.  SNIFF. SNORT.

Treating Pollen Alleries

“Robby! At least TRY to stop sniffing,” I’d plead. 

“Okay, I will,” he’d promise. But 15 seconds later. SNIFF. SNORT.

Outside playing football or Frisbee, on the tennis court, watching TV, playing XBox. SNIFF. SNORT. It drove his three older brothers nuts and they’d punch and hit him to get him to stop. His friends would cajole him to knock it off. Even strangers would offer him Kleenex. It was THAT bad.

I’d try to reason with him, explaining that the snorting sound was really gross. Once I pointed out an old man doing it and asked, “Do you realize that’s what you sound like, bud?” He would somberly shake his head and promise to stop. But 15 seconds later. SNIFF. SNORT.

We yelled and we scolded. We’d send him to bed early, ground him from the computer, make him go to his room. Nothing would make him stop the infuriating noise-making. SNIFF. SNORT.

After an extremely frustrating, irritating and exasperating morning drive with Robby to school, I called a pediatric allergist and made an appointment—but I didn’t really believe he needed an allergist. He’d never had any allergic symptoms when we lived in Ohio … except maybe a week or two of a mild runny nose. Nothing like the snorting and sniffing that’d been going on since we moved to Atlanta over a year ago. I thought threatening him with this appointment and the possibility of shots or nose surgery might break this habit and scare him sniff-less.

It just scared him. 

The day of his appointment, Robby was so anxious he couldn’t eat breakfast and trembled as we sat in the waiting room. He bravely held his tears as tray after tray of potential allergens were pushed into his back and his arm was pricked with eight tiny needles full of dust and mold.

After a few minutes, hives began popping up all over his back and up and down his arm. Ten minutes later, the bumps ran together and his entire back became red and swollen. Robby was allergic to dust mites, dog and cat dander, ragweed and many different molds. He was also allergic to red oak, willow, hickory, birch, red maple, red cedar, elm and sycamore trees, as well as Bahia, Bermuda, timothy fescue, Johnson and June grasses. He was even slightly allergic to peanuts.
He squirmed and complained that his back hurt and itched unbearably. The allergist told me that Atlanta was infamous for its year-round high pollen count and the large numbers of allergy sufferers— both native Georgians and transplants like Robby—who had no problems when they lived elsewhere.

Robby burst into tears, as if the pressure of trying to stop sniffing and snorting to please his family finally hit him.
I held him and apologized again and again for being so hard on him. I begged him to forgive me. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be the year I won the “Best Mom” award.
With tears running down his face, he looked up and asked, “Can you talk to my brothers and make them apologize, too?” SNIFF. SNORT. 

I promised I would.
Editor‘s note: Robby is now undergoing weekly allergy shots. His mother plans to make an appointment with a naturopathic M.D. in Atlanta in order to investigate any possible link between Robby‘s symptoms and food sensitivity. LW

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