Alternative Allergy Medicines for Kids

Many kids take allergy medicines, such as Allegra, Clarinex, Claritin, Singulair, and Zyrtec, etc., and unfortunately, they sometimes continue to have allergy symptoms.

What do you do next?

In addition to making sure that your child's symptoms are really due to allergies and not from recurrent colds or sinus infections, there are some steps you can take to get your child some relief.

Children and dandelions
A Bit of SAS Photography / Getty Images

Strict Avoidance of Allergy Triggers

Although it can be difficult if your child has multiple allergies or if she is allergic to things outside, like trees and grasses, avoidance of triggers can often be helpful. These triggers can include indoor allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold, or pollens and other things outside.

If you don't know what your child's allergy triggers are, allergy testing can be performed by your local allergist to determine them. Testing should also confirm the diagnosis, and anyone with negative testing and continued symptoms should be evaluated for other diagnoses. If you are trying to avoid the most common triggers while waiting for testing, you can purchase dust-mite covers to place on your child's mattress and pillows. Children with dust mite allergy often wake up with allergy symptoms if they do not have dust mite covers because they are exposed to them throughout the night.

Check Your Dosage of Allergy Medication

If your child's allergy medicine isn't working, you might double-check with your physician to make sure that she is on a good dose of medicine. For example, while the starting dose of Singulair for children between the ages of 2 to 5 years is 4mg once a day, that can be increased to 5mg by age 6 years. It should be noted, however, that Singulair is not a first-line medicine for the treatment of environmental allergens (other agents are usually more effective).

In addition to being started at a low dose, some children simply outgrow the dose of their allergy medicine as they get older and it needs to be adjusted.

Try a Different Allergy Medicine

There are now many different choices of allergy medicines, even for younger infants and toddlers, so if one allergy medicine isn't working, you might try another.

If Zyrtec or Claritin isn't working, then ask your pediatrician about trying an allergy nasal spray.

Try an Allergy Nasal Spray

Steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase, Nasonex, Veramyst, Omnaris, Nasacort, and Rhinocort, are often underused in pediatrics. Although safe and effective, most kids simply don't like using them. They do work well though, so you might consider using one instead of, or in addition to, your child's oral allergy medicine if your child's allergy symptoms aren't under good control.

Use the correct technique to properly spray the nasal passages by pointing the tip away from the center of your nose, more toward your ear, ensuring the spray reaches the back of your nose rather than your septum. This makes it less likely to drip down the back of the throat and helps to avoid nosebleeds (a possible side effect of nasal steroids).

Astelin and Patanase, non-steroid, nasal antihistamine sprays, are another allergy medication that can be helpful for treating children with allergies.

Target Your Child's Allergy Symptoms

If your child's allergy symptoms are not under control with her current medications, make sure those allergy medications actually treat those symptoms. For example, antihistamines, such as Allegra, Clarinex, Claritin, Xyzal, and Zyrtec, don't treat congestion, a common allergy symptom.

For congestion, nasal steroid sprays are often required for treatment. Talk with your doctor about whether a decongestant may also be warranted. While decongestants usually should not be used for more than a handful of days at a time, they can be useful short-term to get through a period of moderate-to-severe congestion. Caution should be used in young children, and labeled instructions should be followed to prevent harm.

You can also target other allergy symptoms, such as by using Patanol or Zaditor eye drops if your child has eye redness, itching, or tearing, from eye allergies.

What About Decongestants?

Decongestants can be used in older children (over age 12) for a few days in cases where other medications have not been effective in treating nasal congestion. Refer to the specific product's labels for appropriate use and discuss any questions with your physician.

See an Allergy Specialist for Kids

A referral to a pediatric allergy specialist can also be a good time when you and your pediatrician are having a hard time getting your child's allergies under control.

In addition to maybe providing extra education and tips about avoiding triggers, an allergist might be able to start allergy shots.

7 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.
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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.