Allergy Medications for Kids

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Controlling your child's allergies is important for easing discomfort and maintaining their overall health. The best allergy medicine for kids controls allergy symptoms and avoids side effects such as extreme drowsiness.

This article explains the types of allergy medications and what to consider for children of different ages so you can find the best one for your child.

A young boy taking his medicine
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Types of Allergy Medication

There's a variety of options available for treating children's allergies. These include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that can be administered in different forms and that treat different symptoms.

Allergy medications may be available in the following forms:

  • Liquid
  • Chewable
  • Nasal sprays
  • Tablet or capsule

Main Ingredients

All children's allergy medication is not the same. The ingredients can vary and therefore different medications work to ease different symptoms. There are three types of oral medications that treat children's allergies:

  • Decongestants: Decongestants narrow swollen blood vessels and tissues, so the mucus in your nasal passages can drain.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines block histamines, the chemical the immune systems releases in response to allergies and which causes sneezing and other cold-like symptoms.
  • Steroid: This medication works on the immune system to reduce inflammation in the body. For allergies, it's administered via nasal sprays.

For children who don't respond to OTC or prescription medication, you might consider allergy shots or oral immunotherapy treatments, which the FDA has approved for children.

Allergy Medication for Children Under 5

The best course of action to treat allergies in babies, toddlers, and children under 5 is to keep them away from allergens. This may mean having to stay indoors on high pollen days or changing your environment if needed.

Some allergy medications are approved for children as young as 6 months. However, the FDA advises parents to be cautious. Discuss medications—even OTC medications—with your pediatrician before you give them to your little one.

If you choose to try medication, the best allergy medications for children 5 and under include these oral medications:

  • Clarinex (desloratadine): Dosage for children 6 months to one year is 2 milliliters (mL) daily. The dosage for children one year to five years old is half a teaspoon once daily.
  • Xyzal (levocetirizine): For children aged 6 months to 2 years, Xyzal is only available as a prescription. However, you can get the OTC syrup for ages 2 to 5 years, which should be given at night at a dosage of 1.25 milligrams (mg).
  • Claritin (loratadine): For ages 2 to 5, you can give Claritin's OTC syrup, 5 mg or one teaspoon daily.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine): Zyrtec is not recommended for children under 2. For those ages 2 to 5, you can give OTC syrup. The recommended dosage is 2.5 mL once a day, but the dosage can be increased to a maximum of 5 mL once daily or 2.5 mL every 12 hours. Do not give more than 5 mL in 24 hours.
  • Singulair (montelukast sodium): Children ages 6 months to 2 years can be given one packet of 4 mg granules. Children 2 to 5 years old can be given a 4 mg chewable tablet or the granules packet.
  • Allegra (fexofenadine): This is available in an oral suspension that can be given to children between the ages of 2 and 5 years with seasonal allergies. Children can take 5 mL every 12 hours; they should not take more than 10 mL in 24 hours.

Remember that some medications may be used off-label in children younger than the FDA-approved age. Discuss this with your pediatrician.

Allergy Medications for Older Kids

Until your children are able to swallow a pill, they will likely need to take the same type of medications that younger children do, although perhaps in a higher dose.

These are the general guidelines for using oral allergy medication with children ages 5 to 12:

  • Clarinex (desloratadine): For children over 5, give one teaspoon (5 mL) of oral solution or one 2.5 mg tablet once a day.
  • Xyzal (levocetirizine): The dosage is the same as for younger children; give 1.25 mg before bed.
  • Claritin (loratadine): For children 6 and older, you can administer 10 mg of tablets, reditabs, or syrup once a day.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine): Children 5 to 12 can take 5mL to 10 mL per day depending on the severity of symptoms. Do not give more than 10 mL in 24 hours.
  • Singulair (montelukast sodium): For children 5 to 12, a daily dosage of 5 mg a day is recommended.
  • Allegra (fexofenadine): Like the recommendations for younger children, ages 5 to 12 can take 5 mL every 12 hours; they should not take more than 10 mL in 24 hours.

Children over age 12 may also take more potent medications such as Clarinex, Allegra-D, Zyrtec, Xyzal, Zyrtec-D, Claritin, or Claritin-D.

Nasal Sprays

Steroid nasal sprays can be used for younger and older kids.

Nasonex (mometasone furoate monohydrate) and Veramyst (fluticasone furoate) are both approved for use in kids over age 2. Flonase (fluticasone) can be used in children over age 4.

Discuss the dosage with your doctor and follow their directions. Using these nasal sprays long-term is not recommended.

Antihistamine nasal sprays are another option for kids and include Patanase (olopatadine) for children who are at least 6 years old and Astelin and Astepro (azelastine) for older kids who are at least 12 years old. Astepro is now available over the counter for kids 6 and older.

Your doctor may recommend using a steroid nasal spray for older children, along with another medication to control allergy symptoms.

Summary

The first step to controlling children's allergies is to try and avoid whatever your child is allergic to. However, when that doesn't solve the problem, medication can prove helpful. Check labels to understand what the main ingredient is in the medication—decongestant, antihistamine, or steroid. And discuss with your pediatrician which OTC or prescription medication is best for your child's specific allergies and symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Children with recurring and severe allergies don't just suffer a bit of a runny nose. In some cases, allergies can prevent them from engaging socially, being able to concentrate, and eating well. Allergy flare-ups can also contribute to other health problems such as putting children at risk for bronchitis.

Finding the best medication for children's allergies means finding the best one for your child's symptoms and needs. Discuss options with your healthcare provider. Keep in mind, too, that it may take some trial and error to find the solution that works best for your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there allergy medicine for children younger than 2 years old?

    Yes. Examples include syrup forms of Clarinex and Xyzal, which can be used for children over 6 months old.

  • Are there chewable tablets for allergy relief?

    Yes, allergy medicines like Claritin and Zyrtec are available as a chewable tablet (and also as a syrup), but they are only recommended for kids over 2 years old. Always be sure to follow the instructions on the label.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. FDA. Allergy Relief for Your Child.

  2. FDA. CLARINEX.

  3. Prescribers’ Digital Reference. Levocetirizine dihydrochloride - drug summary.

  4. Food and Drug Administration. Claritin (brand of loratadine) Label.

  5. DailyMed (NIH). Children's Zyrtec Allergy- cetirizine hydrochloride syrup.

  6. FDA. Singulair.

  7. Allegra. Children's Allegra.

  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information - Nasonex.

  9. U.S. National Library of Medicine's DailyMed. Label: Fluticasone- fluticasone propionate spray, metered.

  10. Astepro. Children's Astepro Allergy.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.