By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She specializes in writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics.
When your child has the sniffles, coughs, or watery eyes it is a tell tale sign that they aren’t feeling well. A sick little one is the last thing any parent wants, and figuring out what’s wrong is the first order of business. Milk allergies in babies are common, but these symptoms in particular could be signs of seasonal allergies. Toddler seasonal allergies are quite common and can plague children year after year. It’s important to determine the cause of their symptoms and a method of treatment early on to alleviate your toddler’s discomfort.
To help, we’ve put together this guide to treating toddler seasonal allergies so you can ensure your little one feels their best no matter the season.
How Seasonal Allergies Affect Children
Children are just as prone to seasonal allergies as adults are. Allergies can occur due to seasonal pollen, dust, pets, and/or mold. While these kinds of allergies are uncommon in babies under one year old, they are quite common in toddlers and older children. Seasonal allergies can develop in children as early as one or two years old, and commonly develop between the ages of three and five. If you yourself or another parent has seasonal allergies, your children will be more prone to developing allergies as well.
Many different environmental factors contribute to seasonal allergies. Indoor factors such as dust, dander, and mold can cause allergies at any time of year, however, outdoor culprits such as pollen typically cause allergies in the spring, summer, or fall. Allergy symptoms are the immune system’s response to these pollen or mold particles. They will likely return every year around the same time if your child is allergic to certain types of pollen. Of course, when and if your child experiences allergies and to what is completely dependent on where you live and the specific plants and weather conditions in the area.
During the spring, tree pollen from cedar, birch, oak, maple, and pine trees as well as grass pollen can trigger allergies. During the summer and fall, weed pollen, typically from Ragweed, can trigger allergies. In any season, allergies will be worse on hot, dry, windy days when the wind carries the pollen. Your child may be allergic to one or more types of pollen or mold and so may experience symptoms during one or more seasons depending on their unique immune system.
How To Know If Your Child Has Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies can be difficult to diagnose because they often manifest in symptoms similar to the common cold such as runny noses, sneezing, coughing, and congestion, or in ways your little one can’t express such as irritability, itchy ears and throat, and restlessness. Your child may exhibit just a few or many of these symptoms if they are experiencing allergies.
Pay Attention to The Signs
The symptoms of toddler seasonal allergies are:
- Dark under-eye circles
- Watery, itchy, red, or puffy eyes
- Frequent mouth breathing
- A dry cough
- Irritability, restlessness, or fatigue
- Nasal congestion
- An itchy, runny (with clear mucus) or stuffy nose
- Itchy skin, throat, or inner ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
You may also hear seasonal allergies referred to as “Hay Fever” or allergic rhinitis. Despite its name, there is no fever associated with these seasonal allergies.
If you’re having trouble distinguishing between a cold and allergies based on your child’s symptoms, there are a few key differences. The common cold is often accompanied by a fever and discolored mucus and doesn’t typically affect a child’s eyes. Additionally, allergy symptoms start immediately after exposure to a specific allergen and tend to last much longer than the common cold, going on for weeks, or even the duration of an entire season.
Visit The Doctor
It’s important to address allergy symptoms in children. Children can have greater difficulty dealing with the symptoms of seasonal allergies than adults, so seeking treatment is advised. These symptoms, if not treated, can lead to asthma, sinusitis, chronic ear infections, or other long-term health conditions.
Some of these symptoms can be attributed to more serious causes as well, so it’s important to see a doctor to rule out disease or other sickness.
Additionally, your doctor can actually test your child in a number of ways to determine whether he or she has allergies. They may perform one of two skin tests: 1. They drop a liquid form of an allergen onto pricked skin. The skin will swell in the area if the child is allergic. 2. They inject a small amount of an allergen under the skin. A reddish lump will appear if the child is allergic.
While a child may test positive for a particular allergen, only exposure to that allergen in the wild can confirm the diagnosis. However, if exposure has already caused symptoms in your child, a skin test can confirm allergies.
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies
If you have begun noticing symptoms in your toddler that may denote seasonal allergies, you can follow a few simple steps to begin treating the symptoms.
Consult An Allergist
To diagnose and treat toddler seasonal allergies, your doctor may advise you to visit an allergist. Only a trained specialist can determine what may be causing your child’s allergies and help you enact a proper treatment plan. An allergist may prescribe antihistamine medication, nasal sprays, or decongestants to treat your toddler’s symptoms. In serious cases, some allergists may recommend allergy shots to help reduce a child’s reaction to certain allergens.
That being said, there are a few safe practices you can enact if you think your child is experiencing seasonal allergies to alleviate their symptoms. The key is to eliminate or reduce exposure to potential allergens when possible.
Keep the windows closed and stay indoors when at all possible if your child’s allergy symptoms are severe. When limiting your child’s exposure to the outdoors is impossible, keep symptom relieving treatments such as non-drowsy antihistamines, eye drops, and saline nasal rinses on hand. In inevitable outdoor scenarios change your kids’ clothes right away after being outdoors to keep any pollen that may have attached to the fabric from continuing to bother them.
It can also be helpful to limit exposure to other irritants that will make symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and itchy, runny noses worse. These irritants include smoke, aerosol sprays, strong odors, wind, pollution and fumes.
Change Your Child’s Diet
Cooping kids up inside during the spring and summer months can’t be the only answer, though, and thankfully it’s not. Making diet changes to support kids allergies may benefit them greatly as well, especially if toddler lactose intolerance symptoms are prevalent, as this can drastically decrease the side effects of certain allergens. For example, foods such as bananas can worsen the effects of a ragweed allergy.
Additionally, dairy products and gluten, which cause mucus production, can make the symptoms of allergies worse. If your child is suffering from a runny nose, congestion, or cough, limiting dairy products can help alleviate their symptoms.
For young children and toddlers with seasonal allergies who depend on milk for essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, and protein, it’s important to provide an equally nutritious replacement to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need. Else complete nutrition for Toddlers is a completely plant-based nutritional drink that can provide all that and more.
This nutrition drink is completely dairy and gluten free and contains 20 vitamins & minerals to support growth and development so it will support your child’s fight against seasonal allergies. It also contains Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for immunity and some say helps lessen allergic symptoms if your child has yet to outgrow a milk allergy.
How To Prevent Seasonal Allergies
In addition to treating seasonal allergies, it’s important to know how to prevent them in the first place so you can stop symptoms before they even start.
Keep The House Clean
Keep dust and any pollen that may have blown into your home at bay by cleaning regularly and thoroughly. Fabric and carpet can easily trap allergens so we recommend vacuuming and washing your linens often, especially during the season that plagues your little one. It’s also a good idea to keep the air conditioning on and run an air purifier to keep the air clear from allergens.
Keep The Outdoors Out
After spending time outdoors when pollen is peaking, be sure to remove your shoes so you don’t track pollen around the house, throw clothes in the wash, and bathe your little ones as soon as possible to rid pollen from their hair. If your pets have been outside as well, be sure to give them a bath and limit pet contact with your kids when you can.
When nine months go by without symptoms, it’s easy to forget that allergies can pop up at a moment’s notice. Pay close attention to the seasons that trigger your child’s allergies and be on guard when they approach. Some weather apps will tell you the pollen count and the wind speed outside so you can prioritize indoor activities on the days when pollen counts and wind speeds are high.
While they are a pain, there are ways to both treat and prevent seasonal allergies that will help you help your little one stay symptom free.
The content and advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment, advice for specific medical conditions. Always consult a pediatrician to understand the individual needs of your child.