On the Pulse

Seasonal Allergies or Something More? Seattle Children’s Helps Parents Distinguish the Difference

5.4.2023 | Ashley Speller

A girl walks with her fatherStuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes are a few indications that a child may be suffering from allergies. These symptoms are most often triggered during the spring and summer months but it can sometimes be tough to differentiate the cause among other illnesses that tend to spread this time of year.

On the Pulse answers some common questions about springtime allergies from parents and caregivers.

Does my child have seasonal allergies or a cold?

Allergies can occasionally cause a cough or a sore throat, but they don’t cause fevers or aches and pains like a cold can. Persistent congestion, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and a runny nose with clear mucus are all symptoms that would indicate sensitivities to allergens, especially when they appear suddenly or sporadically throughout the year.

Should we consider taking an allergy sensitivity test?

The first step in determining if a child suffers from allergies may be an allergy test, performed by their pediatrician. Allergy tests can be ineffective on children under the age of 5, but parents will want to be on the lookout for any possible allergy symptoms when their child is around age 3 or 4, especially if there is a history of allergies in the family.

Nasal allergies are common in children. Dust and mold can trigger reactions and are the most common allergies, followed by pollen from trees, grass and weeds. Throughout the United States, trees typically produce the most pollen between the months of March and May, whereas grass pollen season runs from April through June.

Trying to treat symptoms of allergies without knowing what allergen is causing them can be challenging, which is why allergy testing is important.

In some cases, children may be sensitive to one allergen in particular, whereas another child may have their symptoms flare up only when exposed to a certain combination of several at the same time.

How should I best manage the symptoms?

Once a child’s allergens have been properly identified, there are ways to prevent flare-ups and establish an effective routine to help reduce allergy symptoms.

What works for one child may not work for another, however parents and caregivers should speak with their child’s doctor to see if the regular use of allergy medicine may help keep symptoms at bay. Simple things like closing windows around kids with pollen sensitivities, vacuuming, mopping and dusting each week, frequent face washing and showering, and cleaning bedding every week in hot water can reduce symptoms.

What else do I need to know about allergies?

People’s allergy spectrums change over time. In fact, as a child gets older, they can potentially gain sensitivity to new allergens. Hyper-sensitives like allergies can also be accompanied by asthma, as well as disruptions in a child’s sleep patterns which can later cause an inability to focus. That’s why it’s essential to try to identify which allergens are impacting your child so that you can make appropriate changes to help relieve their symptoms.

Though dealing with springtime allergies can sometimes feel frustrating for both parents and kids, it’s important to stay aware and reach out to a healthcare provider with any concerns or questions.