Hay fever hits more kids in South due to climate, study suggests

Hay fever is no fun for young sufferers, and new research suggests the seasonal allergy troubles may be more likely to strike some children depending on where they live.

Researchers discovered nationwide, more than 18 percent of American children and teens had hay fever, with higher rates seen in kids in the south.

"While the reason is unknown, it is most likely due to climate factors," allergist Dr, Michael Foggs, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) said in a statement.

For the study, researchers looked at survey data from nearly 92,000 children aged 17 and younger. They found 18.5 percent of them had hay fever.

States with the highest rates of hay fever were in Southeastern and Southern states. The states with the lowest population of children suffering from hay fever were Alaska, Montana and Vermont.

The study was presented at the College's annual meeting Friday in Baltimore and is considered preliminary since it has yet to be published in a journal.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like symptoms including congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and sinus pressure. It is caused by an allergic response to indoor or outdoor allergens like pollen, dust times and pet dander, the Mayo Clinic notes.

They most commonly occur in the spring and fall months: common triggers include tree pollen in the spring, spores, fungi and mold in warm weather months, grass pollen in the spring and summer and ragweed pollen in the fall.

About 50 million Americans have hay fever, ACAAI estimated.

"According to the study, wetter regions with average humidity were associated with a decreased number of children with hay fever," said Dr. Foggs. "The study also found areas of the south with warm temperatures and elevated UV indexes seem to harbor more hay fever sufferers."

Treatments for hay fever cases that aren't too severe include over-the-counter nasal corticosteroid sprays, antihistamines, decongestants, montelukast (Singulair), allergy shots and sinus rinses, according to Mayo. More bothersome symptoms may require a prescription.

The best way to stay ahead of hay fever is to avoid the offending allergen. Unfortunately, that can be tricky, but the ACAAI emphasized that parents shouldn't consider moving their children based on the new research.

"An allergy sufferer may escape one allergy to ragweed for example, only to develop sensitivity to other allergens, such as grasses, in a new location," said allergist Stanley Fineman, MD, ACAAI past president. "Allergens, such as pollen, can be found in virtually all regions, including Hawaii, Alaska and Maine, making avoidance nearly impossible."

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