Allergy Causes & Symptoms

Pediatric Allergies: Doctor-Approved Tips on How to Navigate Allergies in Children

A photo of two kids playing outside with a balloon and a hula hoop.
Photo by Maresa Smith via Death to Stock

Although it’s always concerning when your kid gets sick, at least most of the time it’s fairly easy to tell what kind of treatment they need by looking at their symptoms: a fever, chills, or just a plain refusal to get out of bed.

Allergy symptoms, on the other hand, can get tricky. A sniffle, runny nose, or cough could just as easily be a cold, the flu, or even an infection.

So how do you know when your child is suffering from allergies and how to help? It can be tough—that’s why we spoke to Picnic Medical Director Dr. Amina Abdeldaim to get expert answers to all of the most common questions parents have.

What causes allergic rhinitis (a.k.a. allergies) in children?

Allergic rhinitis develops in response to repeated exposure to inhaled allergens like dust or pollen.

Allergic rhinitis is rare in children under two years old, so be sure to have toddlers evaluated by their pediatrician before deciding that it’s allergies.

Can allergies be inherited from parents?

Yes! People who have a family history of allergic rhinitis or asthma are more likely to develop allergies.

What are common allergy symptoms in kids?

The most common symptoms of allergies in children are itchy or watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, ear pressure, and sinus pressure. More rarely, you may notice some symptoms on your child’s face, such as allergic shiners or the allergic salute.

Allergic rhinitis is also associated with cognitive issues in children and adolescents, such as lower exam scores during peak pollen seasons.

At what age can a child take allergy medicine?

Older children with a well-established allergic rhinitis diagnosis may benefit from allergy medication, as well as young children who have undergone thorough evaluation to rule out any other potential causes of their symptoms.

Are children with asthma at higher risk for allergies?

Yes, the risk of developing allergic rhinitis is much higher in people with asthma (or eczema.)

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What happens if allergic rhinitis in children is left untreated?

Untreated allergies can have social consequences like poor school and extracurricular performance, or lead to sinusitis or disorders of the ear, nose, or throat—but even if all it’s causing is the occasional stuffy nose, you should still speak to a doctor about it.

How can I treat my child’s allergies naturally?

Outside of medication, you can treat allergies by reducing your child’s exposure to their allergen, especially in the home. Right now, there just isn’t enough evidence that any herbal or alternative medicines are effective for me to be able to recommend them.

What helps allergy symptoms in children?

The range of medications available to children are similar to those that are familiar to adults, like antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops.

Your pediatrician will recommend the appropriate dose based on your child’s age and monitor them for side effects, which is especially important for growing children. Allergen immunotherapy, like allergy shots, is another option.

Can children grow out of allergic rhinitis?

Most people first develop symptoms in childhood or young adulthood. Because of changes in geographic location and rate of exposure, allergies can disappear and reappear over time. For example, the college-aged young adult no longer exposed to their family cat may seem to outgrow their severe cat allergy. When in reality, they’re just away from their constant cat exposure.

Unfortunately, allergies can strike at any age, but that doesn’t mean you have to let your kid suffer every time their allergy season rolls around. You can manage your child’s symptoms by learning their allergens, monitoring their symptoms, and gaining a clear understanding of their treatment options so you can make the best choice for their health.

Need help figuring out what's best for your kid? If they're 12 or older, Picnic may be able to help. Take our allergist-built quiz to get a personalized treatment recommendation made for your child's unique needs.

ARTICLE REVIEWED BYAmina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPHPicnic Medical Director
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