Kids & Allergies: Tips to avoid the culprit and info on child-friendly medicines.
Children are magnets for colds. But when the sniffles and sneezing won’t go away for weeks, the culprit may be something else: allergies.
Long-lasting sneezing, with a stuffy or runny nose, may signal the presence of allergic rhinitis—the collection of symptoms that affect the nose when you have an allergic reaction to something you breathe in and that lands on the lining inside the nose.
Allergies may be seasonal or they can strike year-round (perennial). In most parts of the United States, plant pollens are often the cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis—more commonly called hay fever. Indoor substances, such as mold, dust mites, and pet dander, may cause the perennial kind.
Up to 40 percent of children suffer from allergic rhinitis, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). And children are more likely to develop allergies if one or both parents have allergies.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines that offer allergy relief as well as allergen extracts used to diagnose and treat allergies. And parents should take particular care when giving these products to children.
Immune System Reaction
An allergy is the body’s reaction to a specific substance, or allergen. Our immune system responds to the invading allergen by releasing histamine and other chemicals that typically trigger symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, eyes, skin, or stomach lining.
In some children, allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma—a disease that causes wheezing or difficulty breathing.
If a child has allergies and asthma, “not controlling the allergies can make asthma worse,” says Anthony Durmowicz, M.D., a pediatric pulmonary doctor in FDA’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products.
Avoiding the Culprit
If your child has seasonal allergies, you may want to pay attention to pollen counts and try to keep your child inside when the levels are high.
In the late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, pollen levels are highest in the morning.
In the spring and summer, during the grass pollen season, pollen levels are highest in the evening.
Some molds, another allergy trigger, may also be seasonal. For example, leaf mold is more common in the fall.
Sunny, windy days can be especially troublesome for pollen allergy sufferers.
It may also help to keep windows closed in your house and car and run the air conditioner.