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Children with nasal allergies (also called allergic rhinitis) are sensitive to one or more substances in the air. Some children have allergies that come and go with the seasons (“hay fever”). Others may have allergies all year long. Nasal allergies can cause your child to lose sleep, feel tired, and have trouble paying attention in school. But you and your child’s doctor can develop a plan to help keep your child’s allergies under control.
Nasal allergies are often caused by one or more of the following:
Dust mites (tiny insects that live in carpets, bedding, stuffed toys, and other fabric items)
Pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds
Furry or feathered pets
Symptoms of nasal allergies can be mild or severe and include:
Runny or stuffy nose
Itchy, watery, red, or swollen eyes
Cough from mucus dripping down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
Dark circles under the eyes
Facial pressure or pain
Frequent ear or sinus infections
A health history and physical exam are usually all your child’s doctor needs to diagnose nasal allergies. Skin or blood tests help identify which allergens your child is most sensitive to. This helps you and your child’s healthcare provider make a treatment plan. Your child may be referred to an allergist (doctor who specializes in allergies).
Limiting your child’s exposure to allergens is a vital part of treatment. Discuss with the healthcare provider the best way to limit your child’s contact with things that trigger his or her allergies. The healthcare provider may also suggest one or more medications, including:
Antihistamines: These relieve itching, sneezing, and a runny nose. Antihistamines can be used on their own or along with steroid nasal sprays. You can buy some antihistamines over the counter. Others are available by prescription. Certain antihistamines can make your child drowsy. Ask the healthcare provider which type is best for your child.
Steroid nasal sprays: These help reduce swelling and relieve itching and sneezing. They aren’t the same as the decongestant nasal sprays you buy in the store. Steroid nasal sprays are usually used every day to prevent symptoms.
Other medications: Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe other medications, such as leukotriene inhibitors, cromolyn sodium, or allergy eyedrops. If one of these is right for your child, your doctor will tell you more.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy): Allergy shots contain tiny amounts of the substances your child is allergic to, such as pollen or dust mites. The shots may make your child less sensitive to these allergens. Allergy shots are given in your healthcare provider’s office. They won’t work unless your child receives them regularly, often for a period of years.
Irritants don’t cause nasal allergies, but they can make symptoms worse. Common irritants include:
Smoke from wood stoves or fireplaces
Greenish or yellowish drainage from the nose