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June 6, 2024

Advice from FDA: Allergy Relief for Your Child

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Spring is coming to a close (officially ending this year on June 20th). Flowers have bloomed, and the trees and grass have turned green. Additionally, there is an increase in plant pollen which can trigger seasonal allergies. But spring is not the only time people experience allergies. Some people may be allergic to other substances, such as mold, dust mites, or pet dander (skin cells that are shed from animals with fur or feathers), that affect them all year long.

An allergy is a body’s reaction to a specific substance. This substance, or allergen, invades the body and in some people, triggers their immune system to respond by releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause symptoms such as repetitive sneezing, coughing, clogged ears, and itchy, watery eyes.

Allergy symptoms may be confused with symptoms of a cold, especially in young children. If your child’s sniffling and sneezing does not go away for weeks, it might be allergies. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that up to 40% of children suffer from allergies especially if one or both parents have allergies. Children with allergies may also be more likely to develop symptoms of asthma, a disease that causes wheezing or difficulty breathing.

There are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines available to treat allergy symptoms. However, not all OTC allergy medicines are approved for use in children. In addition, some OTC allergy medicines may have side effects such as sleepiness or dry mouth. It is important to read and follow the directions on the Drug Facts label.

Severe allergies may require other treatments that need to be given by healthcare professionals. For example, allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) contains specific amounts of a particular allergen. By gradually increasing the dose, the person develops immunity and tolerance to that allergen. A shot is usually given once a week for 2 to 3 months until a maximum dose is reached. Treatment may then continue monthly for about 3 to 5 years.

Here's what you can do: If your child suffers from allergies, discuss treatment options with their doctor. If you decide to try an OTC product, read the Drug Facts label thoroughly. Some products may say they are for children, but they may not be appropriate for children of all ages. Some allergy medicines, even at very low doses, can cause harmful side effects in children, such as excitability or excessive drowsiness. If you have questions or cannot decide which medicine to give your child, ask to speak to the pharmacist. After a few days, if symptoms do not get better or get worse, contact your doctor.

For seasonal allergies, avoiding pollen, mold, and other allergens can help. You can check the pollen counts in your area and keep your child indoors when levels are high. Be sure to keep windows and doors closed and use the air conditioner. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Grass pollen season is in the spring and summer, with pollen counts highest in the evening.
  • Ragweed pollen season is late summer and early fall, with pollen counts highest in the morning.
  • Leaf mold season is more common in the fall.
  • Pollen may be more bothersome on sunny, windy days.

Advice from FDA is a feature brought to you by the FDA. You can find this information and more on FDA’s Consumer Health Information website. This website features the latest updates on medicines and products regulated by the FDA. Sign up to receive a free FDA Consumer Update subscription.

Published June 6, 2024

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Advice from FDA: Allergy Relief for Your Child