Allergies are common, particularly in tropical countries like Singapore. The perennially warm and humid climate is conducive for the growth of allergy triggers. Allergy symptoms are also heightened with the monsoon and recent haze periods. Your child may have allergies if they have runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes that persist for more than a week.
Does your child have a runny nose or do they complain about itchy throats? Zyrtec®-R is an over the counter medicine that provides relief for allergies. It has a rapid and non-drowsy formula. For parents who would want to know more about Zyrtec-R, help is at hand. Parents World recently interviewed Dr Leong Jern-Lin who can enlighten parents about it’s safety and effectiveness.
1. Hi Dr. Leong. Please introduce yourself and your area of expertise.
My name is Dr. Leong Jern-Lin, and I am a Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon at ASCENT Ear Nose Throat Specialist Group.
I specialise in the fields of Nasal Allergy, Rhinology and Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC), and am specially trained in both medical and surgical treatments of nasal conditions ranging from allergy to sinusitis in both children and adults. I also have a keen interest in the areas of ENT Allergy, which includes food allergy, asthma and eczema, and analysing their impact on all ENT diseases.
My full profile can be found at this link.
2. For most parents, safety would be paramount when handling medicine such as Zyrtec tablets. Could you tell us how safe they are for children and what are the age groups suitable for this allergy relief?
Zyrtec-R is suitable for children 6 years and above, and has a good safety profile with low potential for drug interactions and can be taken with or without food.
Second generation antihistamines – such as Zyrtec-R – are generally well tolerated in children and adults. One study involving infants aged 12-24 months old showed that using Zyrtec-R in the long-term (18 months) does not have any impact on learning, behavior and psychomotor milestones in young children. Suitable for young children, Zyrtec Solution/Drops are available for purchase from the pharmacist.
Adults and children aged 12 years and older should take one tablet twice daily in the morning and evening, while children aged 6 to 12 years should take half a tablet twice daily.
3. What are the common triggers of allergies and what are the differences in allergic reactions in adults as compared to children?
Allergic diseases can be caused by several common triggers. According to recent local consumer research conducted by GSK earlier this year, over half of respondents attributed the cause of such allergies to triggers like tropical weather patterns, dust mites, pet hair, air conditioning and even the haze.
In another comprehensive adult allergy cohort study conducted in Singapore involving close to 8,000 participants, it was revealed that the dominant allergy trigger is the house dust mite. It was also associated with a high prevalence of allergic rhinitis.
There are little differences in the allergic reactions in adults as compared to children. They will experience similar symptoms such as dripping noses, itchy eyes and uncontrollable sneezing, and even sleep problems.
4. Could you share some of your experience helping parents whose children suffer from allergies?
I spend a lot of time assuring parents that their child can have a better quality of life despite their allergies. I also provide counsel on the different options they have to better manage their child’s allergies effectively – which includes taking steps to reduce their child’s exposure to allergens.
Patient education is also crucial. Whenever I can, I’ll make the effort to educate parents on what allergies and allergic rhinitis are. It’s also key to highlight ways that parents can manage their child’s allergies – such as avoidance – and discuss effective treatment options.
I encourage parents to always keep an antihistamine that can give rapid relief nearby. There are such antihistamines available over-the-counter, such as Zyrtec-R, that are effective in providing rapid relief for the entire day and are suitable for children six years and above. For young children, parents can purchase Zyrtec Solution/Drops from the pharmacist.
5. How can parents tell whether their child has allergies or perhaps some other ailments?
It’s common for parents to confuse their allergies with other ailments such as the common cold, as symptoms are very similar.
However, taking note of how long the symptoms last is one big clue. A cold typically lasts 3-14 days, but allergies can persist for days to months as long as you’re in proximity with the allergy trigger. Cold symptoms also usually take a few days to appear after infection, but allergic symptoms can start immediately after contact with the trigger.
If parents are unsure if their child is an allergy sufferer, I encourage them to take their child for an allergy test. Such a test is useful in identifying the allergen, so parents can make a conscious effort to minimise their child’s contact with it.
6. Tell us what are the tips to help parents better handle their children who are prone to allergies.
Here are a few tips I recommend to help parents better handle their allergy-prone children:
- Know your child’s allergy triggers and stay away. Visit your family doctor to get a diagnosis on what your child is allergic to. Then make a conscious effort to stay away from places or situations that expose them to it. Minimising exposure to triggers can help to reduce allergic reactions tremendously.
- Declutter your home. Store your child’s clothes in wardrobes and toys in cupboards. Leaving knick-knacks and other types of clutter lying around can be a trap for dust and other allergens.
- Speak to your child’s caregivers. Inform them of allergens your child is prone to and seek their support in keeping your little one away from such environments in playschools or at home.
- Always keep relief nearby. Opt for a solution that is easily available over-the-counter, provides rapid relief that lasts the entire day and is suitable for children.
- Don’t neglect your child’s allergies. Untreated allergies can have a negative impact on quality of life. Parents who have concerns about their child’s allergies should speak to a medical specialist and find a suitable treatment to manage these allergies effectively, rather than letting it progress.
7. What are the dangers of allergies for children and why is fast action relief vitally important?
At a young age, it can be challenging for children to express their discomfort during an allergic reaction – causing symptoms to worsen as it progresses. Children are also unaware of their surroundings, and can unknowingly expose themselves to situations or environments where allergy triggers are present.
It’s important for parents to be mindful of the environments their child is spend most of their time in and when visiting new places, especially while travelling (if they notice their child displaying allergy symptoms). Parents should also encourage their child to express discomfort at every instance and check in regularly with their child for discomfort to nip allergies in the bud as early as possible.
As allergies can occur without warning, it is especially important for parents to have on-hand rapid relief to ease their child’s discomfort quickly. I encourage parents to visit the pharmacist to purchase a safe second generation antihistamine that can provide relief for the entire day – such as Zyrtec Solution/Drops.
8. Will the child be able to outgrow their allergies?
Children hardly outgrow their allergic rhinitis symptoms. 8 in 10 children diagnosed with allergic rhinitis will still have trouble 10 years later. Hence it is important to actively manage the child’s allergic rhinitis symptoms to have a better quality of life. Apart from over-the-counter medication, other treatment options such as sublingual immunotherapy (desensitization) are available for the parents’ consideration.
It is important to highlight however that this treatment takes time (at least 3 years) and patience to conduct, and dedication from the parent to follow through with their children, in order for it to be effective.
Zyrtec-R is available on the shelves of leading pharmacies. Parents can now get allergy relief for their children without the need for a doctor’s prescription.
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