How to help a child with seasonal allergies

It is important to help children with seasonal allergies before symptoms lead to concerns like disrupted sleep or lowered educational performance. Parents and caregivers can provide medication, education, and trigger avoidance.

Childhood allergies can easily be misdiagnosed as colds or mild illnesses. As a result, people sometimes leave them untreated or treat them incorrectly.

About 1 in every 5 children in the United States has a seasonal allergy. The medical terms for seasonal allergies are seasonal allergic rhinitis and seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

Plant pollens are the most common cause. Indoor substances, like pet dander or dust, more often cause perennial allergies rather than seasonal ones.

This article discusses the symptoms of seasonal allergies in children and what treatments are the most effective.

Symptoms of childhood seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergy symptoms can vary in type and severity among children.

Symptoms usually do not appear before age 2 years, but the risk increases over time. Each year after that, the number of affected children increases by about 2% until age 12.

The most common symptoms are:

  • sneezing and itchy nose
  • sinus pressure
  • nasal blockage
  • runny nose
  • rashes or hives
  • itchy and puffy eyes

Allergic rhinitis, or irritation to an allergen in the nose, is a risk factor for asthma in adolescence or adulthood. About 50% of children with severe allergic rhinitis report wheezing episodes.

Treatment options

Research from 2021 emphasizes the importance of accurate diagnosis and early treatment for allergies. Clinical studies suggest that early use of immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis may prevent it from progressing to asthma.

Allergic symptoms can also affect nearby organs, such as the eyes, sinuses, ears, and chest.


One way to treat seasonal allergies is to help a child avoid the pollens that trigger symptoms.

Knowing when pollen counts are highest may help a child and their parent or caregiver manage seasonal allergic rhinitis. They can prepare by taking medication or avoiding being outdoors at certain times. For example:

  • Grass pollen season: These usually occur in spring and summer. Pollen levels are highest in the evening.
  • Ragweed pollen season: These typically occur from late summer into early fall. Pollen levels are highest in the morning.
  • Leaf mold: This is most common in the fall.
  • Sunny and windy days: These can promote high pollen levels throughout the day.

Upon returning indoors, a person can have their child rinse off in a bath or shower to remove pollen from their skin and hair. They can be sure to keep windows closed, especially in the bedroom, to prevent pollen from getting into the indoor space. Running an air purifier with HEPA filters may also remove pollens from indoor air.


Educating oneself about the symptoms of allergies, the typical timing of onset, treatments, and avoidance measures can all help manage a child’s condition.

A person can get information from books, medical professionals, and online resources like mobile apps and telehealth sites.

Nasal saline

Children of any age can use nasal saline solutions to help clear mucus from the nose, but a parent or caregiver may need to assist them. Saline solutions do not contain drugs and have few side effects beyond a minor, temporary burning sensation inside the nose.

A person can administer this solution using squeeze bottles or sprays available over the counter (OTC).

Additionally, parents and caregivers can help children use saline solution with bulb syringes or neti pots. Sprays deliver a fine mist and are easiest to use, but irrigating the nasal passages softens and clears mucus better.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises using only distilled or pre-boiled water to mix with the saline to eliminate the possibility of infection.

Nasal corticosteroids

Corticosteroids help reduce symptoms of inflammation like swelling and irritation. They can be used as a nasal spray.

Oral steroids are almost never used for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis in children.

However, it is important to note that oral corticosteroids, if used, do have potential side effects. When used for a short time, side effects usually go away when the child stops taking the medication.

Side effects might include:

  • behavior change
  • increased appetite
  • acne
  • stomach upset
  • trouble sleeping

Research from 2017 suggests that more serious side effects result when children take oral corticosteroids longer than 2 weeks. These might include:

  • weight gain
  • worsening diabetes symptoms
  • growth retardation
  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • Cushingoid features (a “moon face” appearance from extra fat deposits on the sides of the face)

Other medications

Medications other than corticosteroids are available for children’s seasonal allergies, both OTC and by prescription. Some of the most common choices include:

  • Antihistamines: These are most commonly used to counter allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Several forms are available, including oral (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin), nasal (Azelastine, olopatadine), ocular (eye drops), and combination nasal sprays containing both antihistamines and corticosteroids.
  • Decongestants: These are sometimes used to clear a stuffy nose or sinus congestion. They can have side effects like disrupted sleep and agitation.
  • Epinephrine: Although rarely used, this prescription medication can reverse the symptoms of an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms include breathing problems, throat swelling, and a weak pulse. A person experiencing anaphylaxis needs immediate emergency medical attention.

Allergy immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy involves injecting or consuming small amounts of substances that a child is allergic to. Doses are progressively increased over time to build up the body’s immunity.

A few types of allergen immunotherapy exist. They include:

  • Allergy shots: Also known as allergy injections, these involve a subcutaneous injection.
  • Allergy drops: These are sublingual immunotherapy drops that are placed under the tongue.
  • Allergy tablets: For certain allergens, there are sublingual immunotherapy tablets.

When to get emergency help

If a child loses consciousness or has trouble breathing, call 911 or a local emergency number immediately. Allergic responses can come on quickly and may not be related to an allergen known to affect a child. If anaphylaxis is suspected, use an Epi-Pen and immediately call 911.

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Natural remedies

Prevention is the best natural remedy when it comes to a child’s seasonal allergies. This will mean familiarizing oneself with the pollen types that trigger a child’s allergies.

Manage pollen exposure

Children can be allergic to more than one kind of pollen. Sometimes, parents and guardians can determine the pollen source of their child’s allergies by paying attention to when the child’s symptoms worsen.

Medical testing can also help determine which pollens trigger a child’s allergy symptoms. A pediatrician may refer a child to an allergist (allergy doctor) for skin prick testing or a blood test.

Face masks

Wearing face masks outdoors may help children avoid pollen in the air.


Encouraging children to adopt good hygiene habits can prevent traces of pollen from coming inside the home from the outside. Some hygiene practices may include:

  • Bathing: Have a child bathe or shower before going to bed. This will remove any pollen that remains on the child’s body from outside play.
  • Clean night clothes: Make sure the child’s pajamas are clean, and do not let them wear clothes to bed that they wore outside or around the house.
  • Wash when coming inside: Have children wash their hands and face when coming in from outside.


If a child complains of allergy symptoms, apply a warm compress to the spot where they say they feel pressure. This may ease congestion and discomfort.

To soothe itchy eyes, apply a wet, cold washcloth (or an ice pack wrapped in a towel) over the eyes briefly. This can lessen inflammation and calm the itching.

Household changes

Household care — like vacuuming, air filtration, and laundry — can help remove pollen in the home before it causes issues for a child. Other household measures that may help minimize a child’s seasonal allergy symptoms include:

  • Bedding: Wash pillowcases and sheets at least every week.
  • Vacuuming: Regular daily vacuuming will pick up any pollen that comes into the home from outside.
  • Couch care: Fabric couch pillows are notorious for harboring allergens. Try leather or vinyl pillows instead, and regularly wipe them down.
  • Windows: Close windows when pollen levels are high and on windy days.
  • Air filtration: Many air filtration devices are available for use inside the home. When choosing one, make sure it works against pollen.

When to contact a doctor

Contacting a doctor when a child first experiences allergy symptoms is a good idea. The pediatrician may suggest conservative management, or they may prescribe medications. They may also refer a child to an allergist for further advice.

After the initial visit, it is time to consult a doctor if:

  • allergy symptoms worsen
  • treatments do not seem to work anymore
  • side effects occur
  • new allergy symptoms develop


Seasonal allergies can make life difficult for children. Conservative measures, like avoiding allergens and keeping the home clear of seasonal pollens, can help provide relief from seasonal allergies.

Getting an early diagnosis and treatment plan from a medical professional is a good first step to managing a child’s seasonal allergies.

The doctor may find conservative treatment is sufficient, or they may prescribe medications. They also might refer the child to a pediatric allergist.


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