How are seasonal allergies treated in kids?

Seasonal allergies can be treated in a number of ways to relieve symptoms. Saline nasal sprays can help clean out pollen and other allergens in the nose. Medications called antihistamines (like Claritin, Benadryl or Zyrtec) can help relieve itchy/watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing. These can make kids sleepy, though, so see your physician before starting a child on this class of drug. Steroid nose sprays can also be effective in relieving seasonal allergy symptoms but may take days to weeks to take effect. Your doctor may recommend starting treatment a few weeks before the allergy season starts if you know when your child's symptoms started the prior year.

Other tips: Close windows, use air-conditioning and bathe your child before bed to get pollen off hair and skin. Consider buying a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Finally, your doctor may recommend allergy shots. This involves injecting a small amount of the pollen under the skin so your body learns how to accept its presence without waging a battle against it.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, the best way to treat her is to keep her away from whatever is causing her symptoms (the allergen) as much as possible. Since it's likely that it's something that she encounters every day, though, such as pollen, there are other steps you can take to help her cope with her sneezes and sniffles:

  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning. If pollen is the cause of her seasonal allergies, keep her indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are really high.
  • If your child plays outside during allergy season, have her wash her hands and change clothes when she comes indoors.
  • Talk to her doctor about medication. There are many medicines that can help relive allergy symptoms, such as decongestants, antihistamines and nasal sprays. Your child's doctor can suggest the best options.

Seasonal allergies can disrupt school activities, sleep and social activities for children. The constant itching, sneezing and dripping, eye irritation, and possibly asthma symptoms can be overwhelming. The good news is that there are numerous excellent medications that can control symptoms. However, knowing exactly what is causing the allergies can be helpful in order to avoid triggers, know when to start and stop medications (to limit medication use to the needed time period and benefit from getting an early start on treatment), and to determine if additional therapies, such as “allergy shots” may be helpful. To learn what may be causing the symptoms and how to approach treatment, I suggest an evaluation by a Board-Certified allergist. The allergist will obtain a careful history and, if warranted, do simple testing to identify triggers. The tests are safe, quick, and can be done with very minimal discomfort. With this evaluation and a treatment plan based on the results, your child can expect relief from this very common problem.

Dr. Michael R. Land, MD

The best way to get rid of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis would be to avoid the allergen that is triggering them. Reducing exposure to outdoor allergens is important when the pollen count is high. To avoid outdoor pollens, keep the windows closed in your home and car. Also, pollens are often emitted in the early morning hours (between 5:00 to 10:00 a.m.), so avoiding early morning outdoor activity can help extremely sensitive people.

There is not enough strong evidence to recommend the use of herbal supplementation, acupuncture or "special diets" for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Some patients benefit symptomatically from nasal saline rinse, which washes out debris and pollens.

Allergy shots are considered by some to be a natural way of dealing with allergies, although they are still a medical treatment given by a doctor. These injections actually expose your body to small amounts of what you’re allergic to. By starting with tiny amounts and gradually increasing regularly, these injections slowly change your immune system to be able to tolerate larger amounts of the allergens.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.