For many children and adults, seasonal allergies are the pits. They can be unpleasant and difficult to manage. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergies can affect up to 40% of children and 30% of adults.
Also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, seasonal allergy symptoms usually start when pollen from trees, grass, flowers and weeds gets into the eyes, nose and throat and triggers an allergic reaction.
Let’s break down what seasonal allergies are, what you can do to minimize triggers, and how to treat your child’s allergy symptoms.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies occur at different times of the year when trees, grass, flowers and weeds release pollen into the air to fertilize plants, and mold spores can do the same. Also known as allergic rhinitis , or hay fever, seasonal allergy symptoms occur when airborne spores and pollen enter the eyes, nose, and throat and trigger an allergic reaction.
Symptoms include stuffy or stuffy nose, congestion, sneezing, irritated eyes and nose, sore throat, chronic cough, and dark circles.
It’s important to keep in mind that allergic rhinitis is more than just a mild annoyance. Some of the consequences of seasonal allergies in children include:
Fatigue and lack of concentration at school due to lack of sleep
An increase in ear and sinus infections
Asthma exacerbations triggered by uncontrolled allergies
How can you minimize exposure to seasonal allergy triggers?
In spring, pollen covers everything in its path, from cars to clothes. What can you do to minimize your child’s exposure to allergy triggers? Here are some steps you can take to make your child more comfortable during allergy season.
Ask your child to wash their hands and face as soon as they get outside so they don’t rub pollen in their eyes and nose.
If your child’s eyes are puffy and puffy from pollen, start by gently rinsing their eyes using tap water. Have your child take a bath to remove all the pollen he’s been exposed to.
Check forecast pollen levels and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
Dry clothes in the dryer, not hanging them outside where they will be covered in pollen dust.
Have your child shower at bedtime, which can help eliminate allergens and prevent nighttime allergy issues.
Keep your home and car windows closed, which can decrease your child’s exposure to pollen. Use air conditioning to keep your home and vehicle cool, but make sure it’s in recirculation mode if possible to keep outside air out.
If your child has asthma , in addition to seasonal allergies, these preventive measures can help reduce pollen exposure and prevent asthma symptoms from worsening.
How do you treat seasonal allergies?
After taking steps to limit your child’s exposure to allergy triggers, choose a treatment that addresses specific symptoms. For example, by relieving itchy and cloudy eyes, you can improve your child’s sleep and mood.
There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about the best option for your child.
Read labels carefully for the active ingredient. Do not give your child more than one oral antihistamine at a time unless under the direction of a doctor. However, most antihistamine eye drops and nose sprays can be given in conjunction with an oral antihistamine.
Itchy, swollen eyes
Oral medication will not work as effectively as topical eye drops. Avoid using any product that contains a vasoconstrictor (look on the label or ask your pharmacist) for longer than two to three days to prevent redness. Rebound redness is the recurrence of symptoms and can lead to the eyes becoming reliant on eye drops.
If your child wears contact lenses, make sure they can be worn while using eye drops to treat allergies. Put drops in your child’s eyes a few minutes before putting on the contacts, and prevent them from wearing the contacts when their eyes are red. Artificial tears can help soothe dry and itchy eyes as well.
Runny or stuffy nose
A simple saline nasal spray will eliminate allergens and relieve nasal congestion from allergies. Over-the-counter, steroid allergy nose spray can be effective in eliminating symptoms. It takes about a week for your child to see the benefits of this medicine. Even if the drug is sold without a prescription, check with your pediatrician to see if your child needs to use a steroid nasal spray for more than one allergy season of the year. Avoid using nasal decongestants for more than two to three days, as a recurrent rhinitis called rhinitis medication can occur.
Oral antihistamines vary in how long they last, how well they help the itching, and their side effects. During an allergic reaction, antihistamines block one of the agents responsible for producing swelling and secretions in your child’s body, called histamine. Prescription antihistamines are not necessarily “stronger”. In fact, there are very few prescribed antihistamines. The “best” choice is the one that relieves your child’s symptoms. As a good first choice, if another family member has had success with an antihistamine, genetics suggest that your child may also respond to the same drug.
First-generation antihistamines, which have been on the market for a long time, can make children sleepy and don’t last long. Occasionally, children become “hyper” and cannot sleep after taking these types of medications.
Newer “second generation” antihistamines make your child less sleepy, last longer and are given once a day.
Oral decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can help reduce nasal stuffiness. However, its use is not recommended in children under 6 years of age due to potential side effects such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.
Remember: Read the labels carefully for the active ingredient
Regardless of the medication you choose, be sure to check the label for age and proper dosage, and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Your child’s CHOP provider will help tailor a specific allergy plan to your child’s needs.