Seasonal allergies are among the most common allergies in the United States. In fact, respiratory allergies affect more than 6 million children in the U.S.
How do I know if my child has seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergy symptoms may range from mild to severe and are more common during certain seasons, such as the spring, summer or fall when tree and plant pollen levels are high. However, in certain regions such as North Texas, seasonal allergies may be triggered year-round. See common seasonal allergies in the Dallas metroplex.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies cause allergy symptoms in kids at different times of the year when there are airborne irritants (allergens), such as pollen, dust or mold. Also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, seasonal allergies happen when allergens are inhaled through the nose or mouth. The immune system mistakes allergens as harmful, causing kids’ allergy symptoms.
What age do season allergies start in kids?
Typically, seasonal allergies begin in children older than 2 or 3 since allergies develop after repeated exposure. Pollen, the most common cause of kids’ allergy symptoms, often takes several seasons of exposure to cause an allergy. Occasionally, children under 2 can develop symptoms of year-round (perennial) allergies, which are a reaction to indoor allergens, such as dust mites.
Allergies and conditions like asthma and eczema can run in families. If one or both parents have allergies, a child has a higher risk of developing one. However, the allergen or trigger may be different.
Seasonal allergy symptoms in kids
If your child has cold-like symptoms – such as a runny nose or sneezing – every year at the same time, it could be a seasonal allergy. Typically, allergy symptoms in kids come on suddenly and continue if they’re exposed to the allergen.
The most common signs of seasonal allergies in kids include:
- Congestion or sinus pressure
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Swollen, bluish-colored skin beneath the eyes
- Reduced sense of taste or smell
Allergy symptoms in kids can be similar to symptoms of a cold. See how to tell the difference between a cold and allergies in kids.
How can I help my child with seasonal allergies?
You can minimize seasonal allergy symptoms in children by reducing exposure to allergy triggers. Parents can make simple changes at home to help their child find relief from seasonal allergies:
- Stay inside when the pollen count is high or if it's a dry and windy day
- Avoid yard work if allergies are flared up
- Wash your clothes after being outside
- Bathe after coming in from outside
- Keep doors and windows closed
- Use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) air filter in your home
- Vacuum often
- For nasal congestion relief, flush sinuses with a nasal rinse
"Having a plan in place – both to avoid triggers and minimize symptoms before they start – is likely your best bet when dealing with seasonal allergies," says Jeffrey Chambliss, M.D., allergist at Children's Health℠ and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern.
What can I give my child for seasonal allergies?
Limiting exposure to allergy triggers is the best first step in treating kids’ seasonal allergies. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also help relieve kids’ allergy symptoms.
The frequency and severity of allergy symptoms can help determine the best allergy medicine for your child. Talk with your child's pediatrician about the best way to manage your child's symptoms. If your child continues to show signs of seasonal allergies, visit an allergist to diagnose your child's allergies and develop a treatment plan.
Oral antihistamines work quickly and help children with allergy symptoms like itchiness and sneezing. Many newer antihistamines, called second-generation antihistamines, are taken once a day and are less likely to make your child sleepy.
Nasal saline sprays
Nasal saline sprays can help flush out your child’s nasal passages and can be used as needed. Nasal steroid sprays are effective but work best when they’re used regularly during the times of year allergy symptoms appear.
If you use nasal sprays, the spraying technique is important. Point the bottle tip toward the outer eye or ear on the same side – not directly upward. Spraying at an angle stops the medication from running down the back of your child's mouth.
Oral decongestants can help with a stuffy nose, but you shouldn’t use them longer than a few days due to possible side effects. Also, don’t use decongestants for children younger than 4.
Eye drops are an effective allergy treatment for kids to relieve itchy, irritated or watery eyes. Allergy eye drops containing antihistamines work better than oral medications for eye symptoms. Artificial tears can also offer relief. Avoid eyedrops with a vasoconstrictor ingredient, which only reduces redness and doesn’t help with other symptoms. Your pharmacist can go over the ingredients with you.
Does local honey help with allergies?
Some people eat local honey to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms. The idea is that the honey contains local pollens, and by regularly ingesting these pollens, you may decrease your sensitivity to them. However, there is not much evidence to support that local honey helps with seasonal allergies.
"Most of the pollen in honey is pollinated by bees from flowers, not from trees, weeds and grasses, which tend to be the cause of allergy symptoms," explains Dr. Chambliss. "Additionally, the amount of pollen in honey is variable so your exposure may change without knowing it."
Dr. Chambliss cautions that there have been rare reports of people developing serious allergic reactions to honey as well. For most people, honey is not a harmful intervention, but it is not likely to offer much benefit. Honey should never be given to a child under 1 year of age.
How do you treat seasonal allergies in children?
Limiting exposure to allergy triggers is the best first step in treating seasonal allergies in children. There are also both prescription and over-the-counter medications available for seasonal allergies in kids.
Oral antihistamines work quickly and help children with itchy, sneezy symptoms. Many newer antihistamines (called second-generation antihistamines) are often dosed once a day and are less likely to make your child sleepy.
Nasal saline sprays can help flush out your child's nasal passages and can be used as needed. Nasal steroid sprays are effective but work best when used regularly during the times of year when allergy symptoms appear. One helpful tip for allergy nasal sprays: Spraying technique is important. Point the tip of the bottle toward the outer eye or ear on the same side and not directly upwards. By spraying at an angle, the medication will not run down the back of your child's mouth.
Oral decongestants can help with a stuffy nose, but they shouldn't be used in children younger than 4 years of age, or for longer than a few days due to possible side effects.
The frequency and severity of allergy symptoms can help determine the best allergy medicine for your child. You should talk with your child's pediatrician about a recommended allergy regimen to manage your child's symptoms. If your child continues to show signs of seasonal allergies, visit an allergist to have your child's allergies appropriately diagnosed and to develop a treatment plan.
Can seasonal allergies be cured?
There is no cure for seasonal allergies, but the closest treatment to a cure is immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots. This involves weekly injections over the course of several months, followed by maintenance injections for 3-5 years. With continued exposures to known amounts of an allergen, the body starts to change how it responds to the allergen, resulting in few or no symptoms when you are exposed to the allergen in the future.
Allergy shots are an effective treatment for most patients with seasonal allergies and can provide long lasting improvements in symptoms.
Allergies can change over time and some kids will outgrow them. If this occurs, it's usually over the course of many years. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict which children may grow out of allergies, and which children will not.
Respiratory allergies affect more than 6 million children in the U.S. You can minimize symptoms by reducing exposure to allergy triggers. See tips from an allergist @Childrens on how to help your child manage seasonal allergies.
The allergy specialists at Children's Health provide comprehensive care and support for seasonal allergies in children. Learn more about our Allergy program, services and treatments.