Life in the allergy capital: How to help your child’s allergy symptoms

By: Caroline MacElroy, RN, MSN, CPNP

This time of year is notorious for record setting cedar pollen counts, with this year being no exception. Cedar season is from December to February, peaking in January. In some instances the symptoms caused by the elevated cedar pollens is referred to as, cedar fever. Typically with allergies you do not develop a fever (>100.4°F). Classic symptoms for allergies includes:

  • Stuffy nose, runny nose, and lots sneezing

  • Red, itchy, watery eyes

  • Sore throat, itchy throat

  • Itchy ears

  • Trouble sleeping soundly at night, which can cause daytime fatigue

Seasonal allergy symptoms typically do not occur in children less than 2 years of age. If your child is younger than 2 years and experiencing these symptoms, talk with a provider. Younger children often do not blow their nose, but instead sniff and clear their throat. Some children become so used to chronic nasal congestion they routinely breathe through their mouth. Typically allergy symptoms tend to follow a pattern of peaking at the same time each year when specific pollen or mold counts are elevated. Listed below are some ways you can help to prevent allergy symptoms in your child:

  • Keep your child inside during the times of the year when he or she has symptoms

  • Keep car and house windows closed, and use air conditioning instead

  • Have your child take a bath or shower before bed to rinse pollen off the hair and skin

  • Use a special air filter, called a “HEPA filter,” to keep indoor air as clean as possible

  • Change your indoor air filters routinely

  • Avoid using ceiling fans at nighttime

A more detailed list of prevention measure can be found here. There are several safe over-the counter measures you can take to help relieve allergy symptoms.

  • Saline nasal rinses: Rinsing out the nose with saline helps to clear the nose of any residual pollens. Saline sprays or rinses help clean out any thickened mucous relieving nasal congestion and stuffiness.

  • Steroid nose sprays: Steroid nasal sprays are safe to give children older than 2 years of age. These nasal sprays help to reduce inflammation in the nose and sinuses, in order to get the mucous to drain therefore reducing stuffiness. Over-the-counter formulations include Flonase or Nasacort. Use one spray to each nostril every morning. These medications may take days to weeks before they begin to work. Please consult your provider if you have any questions about the use of this medication.

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines are used to help stop itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Non-drowsy antihistamines like Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are safe to use in children older than 6 months. Benadryl causes drowsiness and is best given at nighttime for children older than 2 years. Please consult your provider regarding your child’s specific dose.

If you are using over-the-counter medications with no improvement in your child’s symptoms then it is best to make an appointment with your provider to address your concerns. Prescription allergy medication and allergy testing are available and your healthcare provider can further discuss these options with you.