Seasonal Allergies: Allergy Overload
Last summer, my 12-year-old son Peter began a journey with intense seasonal allergies, immune-system trouble and other far-reaching physical symptoms that made his sixth grade year one of the most challenging for both of us.
It began with a patch of eczema on his inner elbow that was resistant to the usual cortisone ointments. We were referred to a pediatric dermatologist who put him on a stronger cortisone ointment.
A Random Asthma Attack Leads to New Med and New Complication
Shortly after, we were vacationing in an older cottage at a lake. At 2 a.m., Peter knocked on my door. He was short of breath and panicky. Thankfully, we had an albuterol inhaler with us because years earlier, Peter had shown some signs of mild asthma and the doctor prescribed this inhaler for emergency use. (He had used it only a handful of times before, and none in such a significant, emergency situation.) Two rounds with the inhaler helped and we didn’t have any more trouble that week. When we returned home, I dutifully made a follow-up appointment with our pediatrician. She checked his breathing volumes and was concerned that his levels were so low for a normal, healthy boy.
She started him on Flovent, an inhaled steroid medicine to reduce the assumed inflammation in his airways and hopefully, decrease the likelihood of attacks in the future. At his next appointment, his levels had improved so the doctor kept him on the Flovent because it appeared to be working.
More Colds, More Rollercoaster Mood Changes Bring Stress to Whole Family
That fall and winter, Peter seemed to get more colds than he had as a toddler and his moods were very unstable. He said he felt his emotions were on a rollercoaster. There were days I kept him home from school because he told me he couldn’t handle the challenge of being around his classmates when he felt so low emotionally. Other days he was perfectly fine and happy at school. But as time wore on, his eczema came back and we never knew which of his moods would greet us every morning.
The stress of that began to wear on all of us.
I called the counselor at his school. She assured me his moodiness was normal for a sixth grade boy. She also said she was seeing the mood swings in many middle schoolers.
But I still felt something wasn’t right.
Mom Shocked to See Mood Disorder Listed in Side Effects of Allergy Medication
One morning in February, Peter handed me the Flovent box and reminded me he needed a refill. I can’t say why the light dawned on me that morning, but right after I took him to school, I sat down at the computer and googled Flovent. In the list of user-reported side effects on the manufacturer’s Web site were both upper respiratory infections and mood changes. Another Web site was more clear about possible emotional side effects.
I immediately called our pediatrician and suggested Peter come off the Flovent. She was skeptical but supported a gradual tapering-off of the medicine. We began to wean him from the medication over the course of the next month with no ill effects. His follow-up tests showed his breathing was still in the normal range.
His colds stopped, as did the mood swings.
Moods Back to Normal, Peter’s Health Not
All was not well in his body, though. A month later, his eczema flared out of control and the skin around his eyes began to redden, swell and flake. He missed several days of school due to his generalized allergic reaction. He was really tired, had trouble concentrating and his seasonal allergies, which he had struggled with for years, were now very severe. In the past, to keep his seasonal allergies under control he had used Allegra for years but now it wasn’t even making a dent in his symptoms.
In addition to seasonal allergies, we had long suspected Peter was allergic to our cat, so we kept the cat out of his room, bought a HEPA air filter and used Benedryl as needed at night. But as the pollen counts rose in Atlanta, so did his discomfort.
He was frightened. So was I. I wondered whether he had an immune deficiency or some other systemic disease that was causing this to happen?
Fortunately, that way of thinking was just mommy-overkill.
The allergist told us Peter had an overactive allergic response that was spiraling out of control, something that happens when the “total load” of allergens is big. The allergist put Peter on a short course of oral prednisone to get him back under control plus a nasal spray to further block his body’s allergic response. The doctor asked us to follow up for allergy testing when the “typical” allergy season was over, specifically telling us he was not permitted to be on any anti-allergy medicine for seven days before the testing.
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