Seasonal allergies are the body’s immune response to allergens in the environment. Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are very common and occur in about 15% of children. Seasonal allergies can happen to anyone, but are more common in young children whose parents and siblings are allergic.
Common symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Seasonal allergies have several possible causes, including dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Toddlers are often allergic to dust and rarely pollen.
This article will describe the most common causes of seasonal allergies in young children and how to treat them.
Seasonal Allergies in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies in young children occur when your child’s body has an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Common allergy triggers in children include dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. If you notice that your child has a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion around the same time each year, your child may have seasonal allergies.
Do I have a hay fever rash?
Toddlers 1 to 2 years old are more prone to indoor allergies, such as dust mites and pet dander. Preschoolers ages 3 to 5 may be more prone to outdoor allergies such as pollen.
Research shows that young children with eczema are more likely to experience seasonal allergies. If your child has eczema, talk with your healthcare provider or pediatrician about signs of allergy to watch for.
Dust is a common allergen in young children. It includes dust particles and dust mites. Because of the year-round dust in our home, you may notice your child’s allergy symptoms every day instead of just a few weeks a year. Dust mites tend to congregate in places like upholstered furniture, bedding, sheets and carpets.
To address dust allergies, wash your child’s sheets in hot water every two to three weeks to kill dust mites. Aim to replace pillows every two to three years.
Mold can exist indoors and outdoors and can affect children and adults of all ages. It is often too small to see, so you may not know if your child is exposed to it.
Outdoor mold usually appears in spring and late summer, especially around any decaying vegetation. Toddlers with mold allergies should not play among piles of leaves in the fall, as this can be very irritating. Mold can also be present in the house, especially if the house is very humid.
Your child may be allergic to pets with fur or fur. This includes cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils or other furry pets. If you notice your child sneezing or starting to rub their eyes or nose after petting an animal, they may be allergic to pet dander.
Pollen is found in trees, plants, grasses and weeds. It can also be present in the air, so it is difficult to avoid. Pollen allergy symptoms tend to last about four to eight weeks at the same time of year. Tree pollen is highest in spring, grass pollen is highest in summer, and weed pollen is highest in fall.
Because pollen can be found in the air, you and your children will be exposed to it whenever you leave the house. If you think your child has hay fever, try to avoid playing outside in the morning, as that’s when pollen counts are at their highest. Avoid going outdoors on windy days. Air conditioning is also better than opening windows.
Allergy symptoms in young children include:
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
- Eyes hurt
- upset stomach
- Difficulty breathing
Young children with seasonal allergies often rub their eyes and nose throughout the day. You may notice a small crease on your little one’s nose because they lift their nose all day. They also often eat and sleep with their mouths open, as they find it easier to breathe.
Typical Types of Allergy Symptoms
Young children with seasonal allergies may be at higher risk for ear infections. Seasonal allergies can cause ear irritation, which can lead to fluid buildup. Ear infections occur when the fluid becomes infected.
Consult your healthcare provider if you suspect your child may have seasonal allergies. They may first ask you to record your child’s symptoms. This can be a useful tool to help you determine which allergen is causing your child’s symptoms.
When you meet with your child’s doctor, they will ask several questions about when symptoms started and how long they last. Your healthcare provider will ask you what treatments you have tried and whether they worked. They will also do a physical exam and check your child’s eyes, ears, nose and throat. They may discuss allergy testing with you to identify specific triggers for your child.
How to Diagnose Allergies
There are several ways to treat seasonal allergies in young children.allergy medication, known as antihistamines, can help control allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. However, they do not cure allergies by themselves.
Discuss possible treatment options with your healthcare provider or pediatrician, such as:
- Long-acting antihistamines: Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine)
- Short-acting antihistamines: Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
- Nasal steroid spray: Nasacort
- salt water spray
Certain types of allergy medicines, especially Benadryl, can cause drowsiness. Monitor your child to see if they seem tired or cranky while trying new medicines. Taking the medicine before bed may help.
Different allergies may have multiple treatments
How to Find Relief
If your child has seasonal allergies, there are a few steps you can take at home to ease their discomfort. First, try to identify the allergen causing the problem and avoid it as much as possible.
If your child is allergic to pollen, try going outside in the afternoon, as pollen tends to peak in the morning. If your child has itchy eyes while playing outdoors, sunglasses may help. Avoid opening windows on warm days, as this will encourage pollen to enter your house. If your child develops allergy symptoms after playing outside, offer them a cold damp towel to place over their eyes. This can be difficult for toddlers to stick with, so try reading them stories during their breaks.
Consider installing a HEPA filter in your central air conditioner to remove allergens from the air. Bathing your child every night before bed may also help. This will help remove allergens like dust or pollen from the skin and help them sleep.
Dealing with Allergies in Spring
Seasonal allergies are a relatively common problem in young children and occur when your child’s body develops an immune response to something in the environment. Common allergens that affect young children include dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Symptoms may include sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to treat allergy symptoms in young children.
Seasonal allergies can be very uncomfortable, and none of us want to see our kids suffer. If you’re concerned that your child may have seasonal allergies, know that help is available. Discuss medication options with your healthcare provider and record when your child appears to have the most symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to tell the difference between a cold and allergies?
The best way to tell the difference between a cold and an allergy is to pay attention to your child’s symptoms. Both of these conditions can lead to a runny and stuffy nose. Allergies often cause itchy nose and eyes, while the common cold can cause fever.
At what age do children’s seasonal allergies start?
Seasonal allergies are most common in children 3 to 5 years old.
Is there a difference between seasonal allergies in toddlers and children?
Babies and toddlers are more prone to indoor allergies, such as dust and dust mites. Older children experience outdoor allergies like pollen more often.
Are there any home remedies I can try to treat allergies in young children?
To ease your toddler’s allergy symptoms, there are some simple steps you can take at home. If their eyes are itchy, have them lie down and cover their eyes with a cold, damp towel. This will help remove any pollen and relieve itching. Bathe your child every night to remove any allergens from the skin. This hopefully reduces their nighttime symptoms and helps them fall asleep. Finally, avoid known allergens to your child as much as possible.