It’s that time of year again…itchy, red eyes, runny nose, sneezing and hives. Allergies make many children and parents miserable. The best treatment for allergies is allergen avoidance, so keep your children inside all spring, with the windows closed and the air conditioner on – IMPOSSIBLE! However, you can try reduce a child’s time outside and make sure not to run an attic fan/house fan with the windows open. There are many other treatments, but they all involve using medications. Antihistamines are still the best medications we have available to treat allergies. There are several available over the counter now. I typically recommend a trial of diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which means giving an appropriate dose every 6-8 hours for a couple of days and monitor for symptom improvement. If symptoms are better, your child may benefit from a long acting antihistamine. I do not recommend long term therapy with diphenhydramine (Benadryl), because it can cause sleepiness and adverse behavior effects on children. Long acting antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadin (Allegra), certirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex). See your doctor before starting a long acting antihistamine, because they all have different and specific dosing for children of different ages. If your child has allergies and asthma, there is another medication available called montelukast (Singulair) available by prescription.

Treatments for specific allergy symptoms include:

Watery, red, itchy eyes:

– Use a cool, wet washcloth to soothe your child’s eyes and to keep them from rubbing

– Try an antihistamine eye drop, there are some available over the counter and others that are available by prescription

– Gently remind your children not to rub their eyes, this can lead to infection

Runny nose or congestion:

– Nasal saline several times per day

– Nasal steroid available by prescription

Rashes – hives or dermatitis:

– Cool bathes

– Cotton long sleeve clothing

– Vaseline or Aquaphor

Springtime is the best time to play outside. Allergies affect many children, but there are several treatments available to make life more tolerable when the plants and flowers are all blooming. Make sure to see a physician if your child develops difficulty breathing, wheezing, or severe eye swelling when their allergies flare.

Heather Joyce, MD

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