Tips to Treat Your Child's Allergies
Your child has had a runny nose, itchy eyes, and frequent bouts of sneezing. You thought it was just another cold, but this has gone on for several weeks. It is probably time to have your child’s doctor check out these symptoms to see if they are related to allergies and not caused by a cold.
What are allergies?
Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a substance and causes your body to react with sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and itching in the nose or eyes. These reactions may range from mild to severe.
If your child’s doctor determines that these symptoms are due to allergies it is helpful to find the cause of the reaction. Finding out what your child is allergic to can be an important step in finding the right treatment or, if possible, to avoid contact with the substance in the future.
What is the difference between seasonal allergies and year-round allergies?
Allergies may be due to seasonal allergies caused by pollen from grasses, trees, or ragweed. Alternatively, they can be caused year-round (or periodically) by indoor allergens from cats and dogs, vermin (dust mites, cockroaches, or rodents), molds, or secondhand smoke.
Your doctor can usually pinpoint the cause of your allergy by asking questions about the timing of your child’s symptoms and family history. Further confirmation of the allergen(s) can be done by performing a skin test where your child’s skin is exposed to the suspected allergen and is then observed for signs of an allergic reaction on the skin.
How can I treat allergy symptoms?
The best way to treat allergy symptoms is to avoid or minimize contact with the trigger. But that is not always possible, especially with seasonal allergies. Your pharmacist can recommend certain medications to decrease the symptoms of allergic reactions.
There are two categories of over-the-counter medications used to treat allergies that have products indicated for children:
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays may be used to control symptoms of hay fever or other symptoms like nasal congestion, runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.
- Antihistamine products come in various forms, including liquids or chewable or dissolvable tablets to make it easier for your child to take their medication. Some antihistamines, particularly diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness, so ask your pharmacist to recommend another product if your child becomes sleepy when taking the medication. Antihistamine eye drops can be used to treat allergy symptoms specifically affecting the eyes.
A pharmacist’s tips for giving allergy medications:
- Be sure to read the label information on the package carefully to select a product that is recommended for your child’s age.
- It may take a few days to get the full effect from nasal sprays. If you don’t find improvement in a week, stop using the product and contact your doctor.
- For children younger than 12 years of age, check with your doctor if your child needs to use a nasal spray for longer than 2 months a year.
- Antihistamines may be used at certain times of the year for seasonal allergies or for those times when your child may be exposed to the allergen.
- Talk to your pharmacist about the best allergy product for your child.
What is immunotherapy?
In some cases, your child’s doctor may recommend immunotherapy to reduce your child's allergy symptoms for pollen, dust mites, and outdoor molds. Immunotherapy is usually given as a shot. For certain allergens, immunotherapy is given as a tablet placed under the tongue.
Immunotherapy is prescribed only for children with a confirmed allergy, especially if allergen avoidance and taking medications are not successful (or too challenging) in controlling the symptoms. This treatment works by giving small amounts of the material your child is allergic to and gradually increasing the amount over expanded time periods to modify the reaction by their immune system.
These treatments are usually effective. However, they take time to work and a commitment to the treatment schedule and are only useful against the specific allergen that is given.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7 million children have respiratory allergies. Your doctor and pharmacist can help you find the right treatment to control or reduce your child’s allergy symptoms.