As the weather begins to change and pollen counts get high, seasonal allergies become a problem for many children. Want to know what causes allergies and how you can help control their symptoms? Read on!
1. What are allergies and what causes seasonal allergies in kids?
Allergies are an overreaction of your child’s immune system to a normally harmless substance or allergen. In seasonal allergies, the allergen includes things like pollens (i.e., trees often in the late winter-early spring), grasses (often in the late spring-early summer), ragweed and other weeds (often in the late summer-early fall). There are also indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander and mold.
2. Who gets seasonal allergies?
Any child can develop seasonal allergies, but the risk is highest in those children with one or both parents who also have seasonal allergies, as allergies tend to run in families. It most commonly presents in children ages 2 and up and is rare in children <6-month-old. Children usually have to have lived through one year of seasonal changes to develop sensitivities to the aforementioned allergies.
3. What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies can cause symptoms similar to that of a viral upper respiratory infection or cold and be just as disruptive to daily routine and well-being. The discomfort of allergy symptoms may lead to sleep disturbances and increased irritability and can aggravate underlying allergic conditions like eczema and asthma. It is important to note however, that fever is never a sign of seasonal allergies.
- Nasal symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy nose. The discomfort of these symptoms can lead to frequent nose rubbing and/or picking that may cause nosebleeds.
- Eye symptoms including itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes and eye puffiness. Some children can also appear to have discoloration like dark circles under their eyes related to the congestion associated with allergies.
- Respiratory symptoms such as coughing and occasionally wheezing
- Throat symptoms such as sore or scratchy throat, and frequent throat clearing.
4. How can I tell the difference between symptoms of COVID-19 vs. seasonal allergies?
It is difficult to differentiate between symptoms of COVID-19 and allergy symptoms as there is a lot of overlap between symptoms of viral respiratory infections and seasonal allergies. Therefore, clinicians are unable to determine if symptoms are related to allergies or COVID-19 without a covid test.
5. How do I treat my child’s allergy symptoms at home?
There are many over the counter options available to treat allergy symptoms. See tables below for options. There are also some non-medicinal tips to help control allergy symptoms at home. Keep windows closed, especially during days of high pollen counts. Wash hands and face when coming in from outside. Wear sunglasses when outside. Take shoes off when entering the home. Frequent and smart dusting from top to bottom in a way that does not spread dust to areas just cleaned. If you have central air or heating, remember to change your air filters regularly. Use allergy proof mattresses and pillow covers. Try cool compresses to help with puffy, itchy eyes.
6. When to contact the office
As always, we are here to help you determine if your child’s symptoms can be managed at home or needs to be evaluated in the office. Please contact us if your child is having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (especially with a concurrent history of asthma), fevers, or concerns for bacterial conjunctivitis/pink eye (redness to the white part of the eye with thick, sticky, green discharge, significant eye swelling or pain). Not sure what to do? Our Wait-Worry-Panic guide can help (include hyperlink).