Reducing Seasonal Allergies in Children

If your child is sneezing and wheezing through spring, here's how you can help.

boy blowing a dandelion flower
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Spring is a great season for heading outdoors to play and enjoy the warmer weather and budding flowers. But if your child is affected by seasonal allergies, symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, and throat, sneezing and coughing can certainly take away from some of the fun.

Tips to Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

To help minimize and alleviate the symptoms of seasonal allergies, try the following:

Keep your windows closed, especially at night. Pollen levels tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am when pollen is usually emitted from plants. If your child and other family members have seasonal allergies, run your air conditioner instead of opening windows.

Have your child take a shower and change his clothes after he gets home. Pollen can stick to clothing and hair. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of having everyone remove their shoes when they get indoors.

Don’t hang clothes out to dry. Pollen can collect on your laundry and be carried inside.

Keep track of pollen counts. Pollen levels measure the number of allergens that are in the air. If your child is sensitive, monitoring pollen levels can help you know when to limit outdoor exposure. Pollen levels depend in part on weather. A day with little wind usually means low pollen counts since pollen needs wind to carry it around.

High humidity or rain will cause pollen to drop out of the air quickly or be washed away. Warm temperatures and a light breeze, on the other hand, can keep pollen in the air and cause problems for people with seasonal allergies.

Change your air filters. Change the air filters in your heating systems and air conditioners every 6 months or sooner, depending on manufacturers’ instructions. Have your heating and cooling systems checked and maintained regularly. This will not only reduce the number of allergens in the air inside your home but will also help your heating and cooling systems run more efficiently.

Consider a HEPA filter. When choosing air filters for your home you may want to go with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) air filters, which can trap smaller particles than regular air filters.

HEPA air filters have not been shown to be effective by themselves when used to control seasonal allergy symptoms, but you may want to consider them as part of your allergy management plan. You may also especially want to consider using a HEPA filter in your vacuum to prevent pollen and other allergens from being blown back up into the air in your home.

See your pediatrician. Even if you suspect that your child may have seasonal allergies, it’s important that you see your doctor to get a diagnosis. In some cases, what seems like an allergy to pollen may be caused by another culprit, such as dust mites or pet dander.

The best way to pinpoint the allergen or allergens that are causing your child’s symptoms is to have your child evaluated by a pediatric allergist.

Try some saline. If you want to try a natural alternative to allergy medications, talk to your doctor about using saline nose drops and saline drops for eyes. They can help rinse pollen out of your child’s nasal passages and eyes. Be sure to use simple saline, rather than medicated nasal solutions or eye drops, such as ones that promise to “get the red out."

You should talk to your pediatrician before using any over-the-counter products and use only products that are meant to treat seasonal allergy symptoms in children.

Talk to your doctor about allergy medications. Depending on your child’s age and symptoms, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter antihistamines, such as pediatric Benadryl or Zyrtec.

For itchy eyes, there are medications such as Pataday or Optivar eye drops. In some cases, an allergist may recommend allergy shots or immunotherapy to help desensitize your child to pollen.

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