As we dive headfirst into all things spring, from warmer days to longer sunshine, seasonal allergies are in full bloom. What may seem like a bad cold or, even, flu symptoms can be the result of allergies to changes in the environment in the springtime. Understanding what causes seasonal allergies and how best to recognize and treat them in children is imperative in lessening symptoms and treating your child correctly with the guidance of your family practitioner.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies are often referred to as seasonal rhinitis or hay fever. They are caused by the body’s response to environmental changes in the air from outdoor plants. If your child’s body is allergic to things like pollen that get released from trees, plants and weeds, their body releases histamines in response to the presence of the allergen in their system. This release causes congestion, itchy, water eyes, runny nose and coughing. About 7% of children experience seasonal allergies each year. Depending on the person, you can be allergic to just one type of pollen or numerous. Because the majority of plants and trees release their pollen in the spring and summer months, allergies are highest during those times. People can experience year-round allergies, but it is less common.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies in children?
Seasonal allergy symptoms in children are similar to cold symptoms and may include any and all of the following:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Ear congestion
A less common symptom includes trouble breathing which requires immediate medical attention. Other lesser common symptoms include hives, skin rashes like eczema and worsening of upper respiratory diseases like asthma.
How are seasonal allergies diagnosed?
To formally diagnose seasonal allergies, and rule out any other cause of symptoms, it is best to visit your child’s pediatrician to evaluate the full scope of the situation.
Factors that will be considered include:
- Frequency of symptoms
- Severity of symptoms
- Family history
- Medical history
- Other allergies
- Overall impact of symptoms on daily life
Prior to a final diagnosis and treatment plan, allergy testing may be a step in your child’s medical process. Allergy testing is typically done by a series of blood tests or, in some instances, applying the allergens directly to your child’s skin to test their reactions to each. Your pediatrician will confirm which option is best for your child’s specific condition and situation.
How are seasonal allergies treated?
There are various over the counter (OTC) medications that can be administered to your child for the treatment of seasonal allergies. These are typically broken down into three categories.
- Decongestants, like Children’s Sudafed
- Oral antihistamines, like Children’s Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra.
- Steroid nasal sprays, like Children’s Flonase
When choosing the right option for your child make sure to pay particular attention to age requirements and dosing to avoid giving your child something that they should not be taking based on their age. In some cases, for severe allergies, allergy shots or prescribed medications may be a more suitable option. Before beginning a treatment regimen, speak to your child’s pediatrician to determine what seasonal allergy medication is the best fit for your child’s needs.