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Spring seasonal allergies in children

Dr. Rafka Chaiban

Spring is here! The days are longer, the temperature is warmer, and children and parents alike are looking forward to outdoor activities. For some children, however, this time of year also brings seasonal allergy symptoms.


What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Some children may be predisposed to allergies and develop cold like symptoms that linger more than a week or develop repeated symptoms that start about the same time of the year. These patterns of symptoms include stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, nose rubbing, itchy watery eyes, scratchy throat, sniffling, snorting, and/or cough.


What are the causes of spring allergies?

Seasonal allergies develop when the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance in the environment. This substance is called an allergen. Pollen is the most common allergen during the spring. Pollen is made by tree and grass pollination. Tree pollination starts by the end of February followed by grass pollination in late spring and through summer. That’s why pollen levels are the highest during spring and summer.


How does the allergic reaction happen?

Children can contact pollens by breathing or touching them. Children must be exposed to these triggers for 1 or 2 seasons before their body starts to overreact. That’s why babies and younger toddlers are less likely to have seasonal allergies. Usually, allergies are more common in kids whose parents have seasonal allergies. Many times, spring allergies are diagnosed based on the symptoms and the history provided by the child or the parent. Often, no special test is necessary.


What affect the severity of the spring allergy season?

This varies across the country and depends on different climates. The severity of symptoms might be affected by several climate factors. For instance, pollen levels surge in the morning hours, after a rainfall, or on windy and warm days. In addition, tree and grass pollens prosper in cool nights and warm days.


What are the complications of spring allergies?

The allergy symptoms may have a negative effect on the children’s quality of sleep. Those children seem more tired in the morning. Hence, their school performance may be affected. Inflammation from uncontrolled allergy symptoms may predispose the children to bacterial sinus infection. Therefore, an antibiotic may be warranted. In addition, some children with seasonal allergies may also have asthma. If allergies are left uncontrolled, they can cause an asthma attack. The symptoms of asthma flare up are cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. It is important to start managing allergies symptoms as soon as parent notice them and contact their pediatrician.



How to avoid the spring allergies triggers?

We want children to play outside and enjoy the nice weather and the sunshine. We recommend that parents help their children avoid the triggers. Follow the local pollen counts that are available on many weather apps. Avoid outdoor play when the pollen counts are high especially in the early mornings. Try to keep your house pollen-free by closing the windows to keep the pollen out. Turn your air conditioner on and use an air filter. Have your children wash their hands after outdoor activities and bath before bedtime to avoid accumulation of pollen in their bedroom. Close your car windows while driving.




How to use allergy medication the right way and are medications safe?

Allergy medications work best when they are used consistently during the allergy season and not as needed.  Children will respond better if the medicine is started when they develop their first symptom and stopped when allergy season is over. Most of these medications are present over the counter with no need for a prescription. Common allergy medication includes antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, and antihistamine eye drops. Avoid using Benadryl and nasal decongestant to treat seasonal allergies on daily basis.  Please contact your pediatrician if you suspect that your child has spring allergies or if their allergy medicines are not working anymore. Sometimes changing the medication dose or using another medicine makes a huge difference. The pediatrician may also be able to tell if something else is going on.



When should you make an appointment? 

If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms described above and you feel they might benefit from evaluation, the providers at WVU Medicine Children’s Pediatric Clinic are here to help. Call 724-439-4479 to schedule an appointment today.­­


Rafka Chaiban, MD

Pediatrics-Adolescent Medicine


WVU Medicine Children’s Pediatric Clinic

100 Matthew Drive, Suite 213

Uniontown, PA 15401