It seems that seasonal allergies have turned into year-round allergies. Spring allergies can start in the late winter as trees begin to bloom and last well into summer. Grass can trigger allergies in the late spring and early summer, and ragweed begins irritating many people’s allergies in late summer and into fall.

“Anyone who has suffered from seasonal allergies knows just how miserable they can make you feel,” says Jayme Holstein, MD, a pediatrician at Takai, Hoover, Hsu & Associates. “And as a parent, it can be really hard to watch our children muddle through their allergies.”

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) estimates that 6.1 million children suffer from seasonal allergies. Symptoms can vary depending on the child, and can include:

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Ear congestion

More severe symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Seasonal allergies can also trigger asthma attacks in some children with the condition.

Manage Allergies

“Allergies can usually be managed by avoiding allergens or reducing your child’s exposure,” says Dr. Holstein. “Over-the-counter medicine can also be effective to help relieve symptoms.”

When it comes to medication, Dr. Holstein reminds parents to:

  • Read labels to ensure the medication is appropriate for your child, including his or her symptoms and age
  • Start medication 1-2 weeks before allergens are at their peak, which can help lessen the severity of symptoms
  • Call your child’s pediatrician or nurse if you have any questions about medication and dosing

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Dr. Holstein states. “There are safe and effective over-the-counter allergy medicines that can help relieve your child’s symptoms, but you want to be sure you’re giving them the right option. Call your doctor or ask your pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.”

Avoid or Reduce Exposure to Allergens

It’s not always possible to avoid all allergens: When the weather turns nice, children want to run and play outside. Fortunately, there are a few simple things parents can do to help reduce the exposure children have to allergens:

  • Keep windows closed and keep allergens outside
  • Have children shower after playing outside to remove allergens from the body, clothes and hair
  • Wash sheets once a week in hot water to remove any pollen, dust or other allergens that can trigger symptoms
  • Have children wash their hands frequently, especially after playing outside and before eating
  • Encourage children to wear hats when playing outside to keep pollen (and sun) off their faces
  • Carry baby wipes in your purse, diaper bag or car to wipe down hands and faces
  • Stay indoors on days pollen is high

When to talk to your pediatrician

“If seasonal allergies don’t improve, then parents should contact their child’s doctor,” says Dr. Holstein. “There are additional medications that can be added to the seasonal allergy medicine rotation to help manage and reduce symptoms. If those don’t work, along with making adjustments to the environment, your child may be referred to an allergist for allergy testing.”

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