As we say goodbye to the freezing rain, sleet, and snow that we experienced this winter in Maryland – most of us welcome the spring and the sight of daffodils and tulips in bloom. Unfortunately for many Marylanders, the beauty of spring also brings misery in the form of spring allergies.
Children who suffer from allergies can have a myriad of symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be a mere nuisance or a medical emergency. Allergic symptoms include: itchy eyes, red eyes, eyelid swelling, clear, watery eye drainage, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sneezing, runny nose, scratchy or sore throat; coughing, wheezing, tightness in their chest and/or shortness of breath, dry skin, eczema or hives. If your symptoms are mild, you may want to try over-the-counter allergy remedies to treat the symptoms of allergy before heading off to your medical provider.
For eye symptoms in children ages 3 and older, you can try Zaditor or Alaway eye drops (Ketotifen Fumarate). These eye drops are helpful by providing quick relief for itchy and watery eyes. These drops do not need to be used on a continual basis; once the symptoms have resolved, you can discontinue their use.
For nasal symptoms in children ages 2 and older, you can try Claritin (loratidine), Zyrtec (cetirizine) or Allegra (fexofenadine). These medications are “antihistamines” that are helpful in the relief of runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose and throat. Typically, these medications take 14 days to provide full relief from allergy symptoms. If your child has been using any of these medications for 14 days and is still symptomatic, you should have them seen by your medical provider to determine the cause.
If your child experiences symptoms of chest tightness, shortness of breath or wheezing, they may be having a more severe reaction to allergies and may need breathing treatments in the form of inhaled or nebulized medications (Albuterol or Xopenex). If your child has had a previous history of wheezing and has these medications at home, it would be reasonable to give a treatment. If it does not improve these symptoms, they should be seen immediately.
Dry, leathery or irritated skin should be moisturized frequently. If there are areas that are more red and swollen, hydrocortisone cream twice a day can be helpful. Hives are best treated with Benadryl (diphenhydramine) every 6 hours as needed as hives can come and go when the Benadryl wears off. For itchy skin, any of the antihistamines can be helpful (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra). If you’re not sure what is causing your child’s rash, you should make an appointment with your medical provider.
Typically, seasonal allergies affect children over the age of 2 and do not cause fever. If your symptoms are mild, try one of the over-the-counter allergy remedies. If they do not help, or if your child’s symptoms are more severe (i.e., difficulty breathing, shortness of breath) you should seek help from your medical provider immediately. When possible, identifying the trigger and decreasing the exposure is always helpful in reducing allergy symptoms. For example, if you think your child suffers from a grass allergy, perhaps you should avoid having them mow the lawn. After playing outside during prime allergy season, have your child wash his/her hands and face to reduce further allergen exposure.
When in doubt, it is always reasonable to seek the guidance from your medical provider who can further evaluate your child’s symptoms and offer other helpful treatments.
Gwyn Reece is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Annapolis Pediatrics, where she has been for the past 11 years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Tulane University; her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing from The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Gwyn lives in Crofton with her husband, Josh and her two children, Kate & Andrew.
Annapolis Pediatrics can be reached at 410.263.6363 or annapolispediatrics.com