AH-CHOO! Coping with seasonal allergies

It’s only 3 p.m. on a Saturday and one of my children is in the shower for the second time today washing off the pollen which has turned her face into a puffy, slimy raspberry. It’s that beautiful time of year when the blooming flowers trigger allergic symptoms such as runny noses and red itchy eyes.


In addition to washing pollen off your child’s body, you can make some changes in your child’s environment to help decrease allergic reactions to the “great” outdoors. For one, turn on the air conditioner and close the windows to limit the outdoors from entering your child’s bedroom. Also, have your child wash her hands as soon as she comes in from playing outside to decrease the chances of her rubbing allergens into her eyes and nose.


Many kinds of medications can help allergy symptoms. The most commonly used oral medications are the antihistamines. These medicines work by limiting the “histamines” your body makes in response to allergies. Histamine causes itchy skin, red eyes, and runny noses. Examples of antihistamines are diphenhydramine (brand name Benedryl), loratadine (brand name Claritin), cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (brand name Allegra). The most common side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness, especially with older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine.  Most antihistimines are now available over the counter.


Allergy eye drops and nose sprays act topically on the eyes or nose to combat allergy symptoms. Some prescription nose sprays contain topical steroids or antihistamines. Eye drops may contain antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers (more cells which cause allergy symptoms!).


Another allergy medicine heavily advertised is Singulair. This medicine is a leukotriene inhibitor which prevents the body from releasing another type of substance (leukotrienes) that causes allergy symptoms.


Decongestants such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can help decrease nasal stuffiness. This is the “D” in “Claritin D” or “Allegra D.” However, they are discouraged in young children because of potential side effects such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.


Some of the above mentioned medicines can be taken together and SOME CAN NOT. Parents may inadvertently give more than one oral antihistamine simultaneously. Read the labels carefully for the active ingredients and do NOT give more than one oral antihistamine at a time. In contrast, most antihistamine eye drops and nose sprays can be given together with oral antihistamines.


Please consult your child’s health care provider to determine which allergy medications will best help your child this allergy season.  A carefully thought out allergy plan can go a long way to helping your child’s allergy symptoms.


Sure beats taking five showers a day or having your nose removed for allergy season!


Naline Lai MD and Julie Kardos, MD

© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod

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  • Reply Barbara Martinez April 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    What a timely article! I was just waiting for the office to open this morning to call about my three year old. I have been wondering how safe many of the over the counter meds are okay for young ones such as my three year old? Are eye drops, like NaphconA safe for kids that young? With baseball season upon us and older kids, the poor little one gets dragged out to the fields constantly and i know I am not doing him any good, but I am unsure what else to do for him.

  • Reply Two Peds in a Pod April 22, 2010 at 1:19 am

    Thank you for your interest in our site!
    You ask an important question.

    For all medications including allergy medicines, if information about dosing for your child’s age is not on the label of the medicine, then you should consult with your child’s health care provider. This consult is the safest way to ensure effective, individualized care for your child.

    We hope your child “weathers” this allergy season well!
    Drs. Kardos and Lai

  • Reply DrGritsInABowl April 26, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Zaditor, which is over the counter, is a good choice for a long acting antihistamine eye drop for seasonal allergies and is approved for children 3 and older. Long acting is key for kids, since they don’t like eye drops in general.
    The problem with NaphconA, and many other eye drops that “get the red out” is that they contain vasoconstrictors, medicines that tighten blood vessels to decrease the redness associated with allergies. The problem is that, just like Afrin nose spray, repeated use can lead to rebound, i.e. your eye gets red as soon as the drops wear off.

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