How to safely treat your child’s seasonal allergies

As spring turns to summer, many of us get the itch to head outdoors.

But what about the itch you get when you go outside?

One in five Americans suffer from allergies. That’s more than 50 million of us dealing each year with itchy, watery eyes, runny noses and congestion each year.

Knowing which of the dozens of medications claiming to provide allergy relief will work for you can be overwhelming. Knowing which are safe and effective for your child can be even more difficult.

Consulting with a specialist can help you understand what’s causing your child’s allergies and how to finally control them.

School performance

Allergies can affect more than your child’s comfort. Studies show that children’s school performance can suffer during allergy season.

“One reason is that poorly controlled allergies decrease sleep quality. When you can’t breathe through your nose, you’re up at night coughing or you’re uncomfortable, you’re not getting restful sleep,” said Neha Dunn, MD, one of the specialists at OSF HealthCare Medical Group – Allergy & Immunology who treats both adults and children.

While sleep deprivation alone can affect a child’s ability to learn, the pain, the congestion and itching of allergies can be a major distraction during the day.

Medications that are short-acting or sedating can be ineffective or even make kids feel worse. That’s why Dr. Dunn takes the time to educate the parents of her patients how to manage symptoms by avoiding allergens and using prescription or over-the-counter medications safely and effectively.

Identifying and treating allergies

The first step for managing your child’s allergies is understanding what is causing them.

Dr. Dunn usually begins with a skin test to determine which allergens affect your child. Once your child is diagnosed with a specific allergy, Dr. Dunn can explain which medications will work and when they’re needed.

“If you start your allergy medications one to two weeks before allergy season you’re going to do a lot better than starting medication when allergy symptoms have already flared up,” Dr. Dunn said.

Parents can often manage their child’s allergies once they understand which combination of pills, sprays or drops will be most effective. But for those who want a more permanent approach, Dr. Dunn also offers immunotherapy, or allergy shots.

“There are pros and cons of both treatments,” Dr. Dunn said. “Medication is easy to administer, but it’s just a temporary treatment. Those medications wear off, and you need to keep taking them over and over again when you’re exposed to an allergen.”

With immunotherapy, patients receive a series of injections that, over time, teaches their bodies to respond differently to allergens. Injections start weekly then taper off in frequency over 4 to 5 years.

“A few years of treatment can give you a 20-plus year solution to your allergies,” Dr. Dunn said.

Last Updated: February 10, 2022

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About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale was a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: Kids & Family, Preventive Health