Fall Allergies Part I: Allergy Basics

young girl playing in a pile of fall leaves

Are there more sniffles and sneezes around your house than usual? With this season often come the runny noses and itchy eyes that fall allergies bring. If you have a child with seasonal allergies, here’s what you need to know about what’s causing them and when to call the doctor.

Common Seasonal Allergies

  • Ragweed: Ragweed typically starts showing up in August, and persists through September and October until the weather gets colder. The pollen from ragweed causes allergy symptoms to flare in many people, kids included.
  • Mold: We see a lot of reactions to mold in the fall due to moisture inside the home and leaves outside. When leaves sit on the ground and get wet from dew and rain, they’re a prime breeding ground for mold.
  • Dust: Dust hangs around all year, but gets stirred up more in the fall when we turn our furnaces on after they’ve been off all summer long. The air blowing through the vents sends all that dust right into our living spaces.

The symptoms you’ll mainly see with fall allergies are congestion, coughing, post-nasal drip (which can lead to a sore throat), sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Kids who rub their hands up their nose while sniffing might have a line form across the bridge of the nose (called the “allergic salute”).

While allergies don’t cause kids to be tired, fatigue can be a side effect since kids may not rest as well if they’re congested a lot.

When to Call a Doctor

Not sure if your child has a lingering cold or if it’s allergies? As with most medical concerns, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician to eliminate guesswork and get to the root of what’s bothering your child.

For kids ages 4 and up, if there is a strong family history of allergies and your child is showing similar symptoms, it’s OK to try an over-the-counter allergy remedy (such as cetirizine/Zyrtec®, loratadine/Claritin®, or fexofenadine/Allegra®) for several days. If there’s no improvement, call your pediatrician.

For infants and toddlers, it can be hard to tell the difference between allergies and something else. Don’t treat kids this young with over-the-counter allergy medicines. Call your pediatrician.

Kids who are more prone to allergies are those with asthma and bad eczema, and those who have a family history of allergies.

When talking about treatments, parents often have questions about the type of medication, the correct dose for your child’s age, and other approaches you can take to help your child during the height of allergy season. I’ll talk more about those here in Part II of this series on fall allergies.

If you have questions, or would like to request an appointment with our team, please contact our Allergy and Immunology Department.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series on fall allergies. Tune in for Part II: How to Help Your Child, to hear Dr. DeBlasio talk about how you can ease your child’s allergy symptoms through both medical and non-medical approaches.

Topics:

Nick DeBlasio, MD

About the Author: Nick DeBlasio, MD

Nick DeBlasio, MD, is a pediatrician in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics. His areas of interest include medical education and primary care of underserved children. He is an attending physician at the Pediatric Primary Care Center.

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