Let’s get this out of the way first: Little baby noises like hiccups and sneezes are adorable. With sneezes specifically, it’s often just their body’s way of conducting routine maintenance and keeping bad stuff out. But other times, those tiny achoos may be a sign of something else, like a common cold or even seasonal allergies. Though we may not think of babies and toddlers as having hay fever, they can develop seasonal allergies to different environmental factors like plants, trees, grasses, and mold.
If you had allergies as a kid or have seen a child go through springtime sensitivities, it is not pretty. Between the runny nose and eyes, crusted eyes, labored breathing, and itchy face, it is a special kind of torture indeed. The good news is, your nugget doesn’t have to spend the rest of their lives in a bubble. If you catch the signs early, you can learn how to better manage these seasonal flare-ups. Here’s what to know about how to help a child with seasonal allergies, including recognizing the symptoms and knowing which medicines are the best and safest forms of relief.
What causes seasonal allergies in babies and toddlers?
In short, seasonal allergies in babies and toddlers are essentially caused by the same triggers as seasonal allergies in adults: anything involving pollen and/or mold. This can include pollen from trees, grasses, weeds, flowers, and other plants. In general, they’re not a cause for alarm. In fact, allergic rhinitis — the fancy name for hay fever — is the most common childhood illness resulting from allergies. But, fun fact: “Hay fever” isn’t triggered by hay, nor does it cause a fever #TheMoreYouKnow (where’s the rainbow emoji when you need it?).
What months is allergy season?
Allergy season is serious and the best way to prepare is to know when it arrives. Keep in mind, your season depends on your sensitivities and where you live. For example, in southern states allergy season can begin in January all the way to November. If you deal with hay fever, it usually starts in the late winter or spring. And if ragweed pollen is your kryptonite, beware of the summer and early fall.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies in babies and toddlers?
The earlier that parents spot potential seasonal allergies in their children, the better it will be to get them under control. This means that if you suspect your baby or toddler has seasonal allergies, it’s a good idea to take them to an allergist for evaluation. It’s not uncommon for symptoms of seasonal allergies to appear as though they’re part of a common cold or sinus infection. So, if you’re able to pinpoint your child’s allergies and give them the treatment they need to manage their symptoms, it may mean fewer missed days of school for them (and work for you).
If your child has the same chronic cold-like symptoms over and over, they last more than a week or two, and they tend to happen around the same time each year, there’s a good chance your little one has seasonal allergies. Here are some of the seasonal allergy symptoms in babies and toddlers to look out for:
- Runny nose
- Nasal stuffiness
- Throat clearing
- Eye rubbing
- Nose rubbing
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itching or tingling in the mouth or throat
- Coughing, wheezing, and/or difficulty breathing
- Recurrent red, itchy, dry, sometimes scaly rashes in the creases of the skin, wrists, and ankles
What kinds of medicine can treat seasonal allergies in babies and toddlers?
If you’ve taken your child to the allergist and they’ve been diagnosed with seasonal allergies, the doctor has likely already prescribed or recommended the best course of treatment for them. But if you haven’t gotten around to making a trip to the allergist yet, though strongly suspect your child may have seasonal allergies, you may wonder what kinds of allergy medicines — if any — are safe and effective for babies and toddlers.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, most seasonal allergies in children can be effectively treated by both avoiding their known allergens and taking over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. And while some allergy medicines are approved for use in children as young as six months old, the FDA cautions that just because a product says that it is safe for children does not mean it is intended for children of all ages. To be on the safe side, always be sure to read the label and see if the OTC medicine is recommended for someone your child’s age.
Many of the popular OTC allergy medications — including long-acting, non-sedating antihistamines including Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra — come in formulations for children. If that’s not enough to handle your child’s stuffiness and drainage, you may want to try an OTC nasal spray, like Children’s Flonase (safe for ages four and above) or Children’s Nasacort (safe for age two and above).
Again, be sure to read the product’s label to make sure that it’s safe for someone your child’s age. It goes without saying that the best practice before giving your child any new medication is to consult a pediatrician.
How do you help a child with seasonal allergies?
Allergies suck. But thankfully, they can be managed.
- You may not be able to keep your little one inside for the rest of their life, but you can reduce triggers by keeping them indoors during allergy season and on windy days.
- The best days to go outside are the ones after a storm because the rain clears the pollen from the air.
- If someone is doing lawn or garden work, make sure they take a shower afterwards or before coming in contact with the baby.
- Always take off your outside clothes and your baby’s.
- Although it may be more eco-friendly, avoid hanging laundry outside to dry. Like your outside clothes, pollen can stick to any fabric, including your sheets.
- Try to keep the windows and doors closed in the house.
- Invest in a dehumidifier. It’ll help keep the air free of pollen.
- A stuffy nose is the worse. So if you want to clear your baby’s breathing passage, a saline solution will do the trick. You can buy it from the drugstore or you can mix warm water with a teaspoon of salt. Wipe your kiddo’s nose with it and try to get a little inside (but not too much).
- Check the forecast in the morning to see what the pollen count is. If it’s high, wear a mask. And thanks to COVID-19, you’ll probably already be wearing one. Just avoid being outside for long periods of time during these pollen-heavy days.
- To avoid making your allergy symptoms worse, avoid eating lots of dairy products. Instead, drink water to help clear your system and replace fluids you may have lost because of your runny nose.