Sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, runny and itchy nose… if you have seasonal allergies, you’re all too familiar with these symptoms. As an adult, you surely have your defense mechanism down pat, whether it be hiding indoors, weekly shots, stocking up on meds, or even sucking it up. But when you notice the same irritating symptoms creep up in your children, you certainly don’t want to keep them cooped up inside, nor do you want them to suffer through it. So are medications the way to go?
There are a variety of ways parents and children can alleviate allergy symptoms—including medications and holistic remedies, but there is no cure for them. According to Reenal Patel, MD, pediatric and adult allergist and immunologist based in New York City, it’s truly up to the family what route they take.
“Every patient is different and there is never one medication that will treat every patient. I like to understand the parent and patient’s beliefs to better understand what treatment option will suit their needs,” Patel says. “If a parent prefers natural remedies, we definitely can work with them in finding some great options.”
Natural remedies can vary from the child taking a shower immediately after coming from outside to help remove any pollen on their hair or skin, and splashing water over their eyes if they complain of itchy, watery eyes to help remove any pollen, to a saline sinus rinse. This rinse can help clean out the sinus passageways using simple ingredients such as water, baking soda, and non-iodized salt.
“If parents and children are not seeing results with the non-medicated approach, they can also consider a variety of non-prescription and prescription medication,” Dr. Patel says. “I like to start with non-sedating antihistamines, this way they are able to control their symptoms and not be drowsy during the school day.”
Antihistamines are available over the counter or as a prescription, and work by decreasing the release of histamine, which is a natural body chemical triggered by the immune system. For children six months old and up, Clarinex Oral Solution and Xyzal Oral Solution are great options, while children two years old and up can use Children’s Allegra Allergy Oral Suspension, Claritin Syrup, and Claritin Chewables. For kids six years old and up, Alavert Tablets, Clarinex RediTabs, Zyrtec Liquid Gels, Patanase nasal spray, and Claritin RediTabs are good. For 12 years old and up, Clarinex Tablets, Allegra-D, Zyrtec-D, and Astelin nasal spray are recommended. Some of the main side effects of antihistamines include: dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
There are also anti-leukotrienes like Singulair and Zyflo that work to block leukotrienes, an immune system chemical that trigger allergy symptoms such as excess mucus, and also help to treat asthma brought on by allergies. If your child suffers from asthma, this is an ideal medication to treat their allergies. Singulair Oral Granules and Singulair Chewable Tablets are among the best options for children. Possible side effects include: flu-like symptoms, feeling nervous or excitable, headache, stomachache, nausea or vomiting, and nasal congestion.
Decongestants are another option, and work by shrinking the blood vessels in the nose to alleviate congestion. Available over-the-counter or as a prescription, it is advised that kids under four years of age do not use them, nor should they ever be combined with antihistamines. Adult strengths should also be avoided in children. Sudafed Nasal Decongestant Liquid is a brand to try.
Nasal corticosteroids are available by prescription. Over-the-counter nasal saline sprays like Ocean for Kids or Little Remedies for Noses Saline Spray/Drops are nonmedicated options that may help, too. “A variety of nasal steroid sprays are now available over the counter, but we always discuss the risks of these medications in young children and the appropriate way in which to use them,” Dr. Patel says. “There are prescription nasal sprays that the doctor can also add on including antihistamine nasal sprays.” Nasonex and Veramyst are recommended medications. Side effects of such medications can include: headache, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and more.
It’s important to always talk to your pediatrician or allergist before administering medications to determine the correct medication, as well as dosage.