Keep the sniffles away

If junior seems to have a cold that never seems to go away, he could be suffering from allergic rhinitis. SmartParents has details on this condition...


Like most toddlers, 4-year-old Charlene Lam is a bundle of energy. But she starts sniffling as she drifts off to sleep every night. By the time she wakes up in the morning, she is sneezing, has a blocked nose, watery eyes and often, a headache.

            Charlene’s mum Serene Wee, 32, says that she was herself diagnosed with allergic rhinitis when she was a child — it's a condition where the nasal airways are inflamed and swollen when they are exposed to certain allergens like dust mites, cockroaches or pet fur.

            Notes Wee, whose own symptoms improved when she around 10 years old, “We’ve always gone by the motto of trying to reduce the amount of dust in the environment as much as possible, so that’s how we manage.

            “We bought an ultra-violet vacuum cleaner as it’s been proven to kill the mites, and use a garment steamer on our curtains as the heat kills the mites.”

            Much as Charlene loves her stuffed toys, she’s only allowed to have one or two at a time, and none in her bed.

            Still, because of her condition, Charlene visits the GP regularly to manage her symptoms. Wee says, “About once every two to three months, it would get bad enough to affect her sleep, so we’ll get some medicine to make her feel more comfortable.” The doctor usually prescribes antihistamines and a nasal spray for Charlene.

Don’t ignore the condition

Dr Adrian Siew Ming Saurajen, an ENT surgeon at Ear Nose Throat and Snoring Centre notes that the biggest misconception about allergic rhinitis is that this is a “harmless” condition that does not require treatment. He points out, “The airways in the nose are very much linked to the airways in the lungs. If there is continued irritation and swelling, patients might end up with lung issues like asthma, or cough infections.”

            Dr Saurajen adds that rhinitis sufferers who don’t breathe well lose quality sleep, causing their levels of stamina and energy to fall, and even their hearing may be affected. They may also be prone to snoring, since their airways are narrowed because they are inflamed.

            In the long term, the face and teeth of a child who keeps breathing through his mouth may be affected. “These children may end up with a long face and narrowed jaw. They might develop crowded teeth, too, which may require dental treatment,” he adds.