Seasonal allergies are among the most common allergies in the United States. In fact, up to 40% of children have pollen allergies, also referred to as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
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.
Seasonal allergies typically do not affect a child under the age of 2-3 years, as allergies develop after repeated exposure. For pollen allergies it often takes several seasons of exposure to an allergen before symptoms develop. Occasionally, perennial allergies, which are a reaction to allergens mostly found indoors such as dust mites, can present in children under 2 years of age.
Allergies and atopic conditions such as asthma and eczema can run in families. If one or both parents are affected by allergies, a child has a higher risk of developing allergies. However, the specific allergen or trigger may differ.
Seasonal allergy symptoms in kids
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.
Does local honey help with allergies?
Some people eat local honey as a way 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 stopped up 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 also 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 certainly 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 will grow out of allergies, and which children will not.
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.
Stay current on the health insights that make a difference to your children. Sign up for the Children's Health newsletter and have more tips sent directly to your inbox.