Parent's Guide to Allergies in Children

Boy blowing his nose outdoors
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Allergies can be a big problem for kids.

Learning more about allergies can help parents get their kids some much-needed relief.

The first step in treating allergies is trying to make sure that your child really has allergies to begin with, as allergy symptoms are often confused with cold symptoms.

Allergy Symptoms

If your child doesn't have a cold, then they may have allergies.

Although most parents just think of a runny nose when they think of allergies, there are many possible allergy symptoms, such as:

  • A runny nose and itchy eyes - from ragweed, known as allergic rhinitis
  • An itchy red rash that comes and goes - from peanuts, known as hives
  • Itchy red skin rash - from nickel, known as contact dermatitis

Of course, if you are thinking of the classic allergy symptoms and signs that are associated with hay fever (allergic rhinitis), these may include:

  • A crease near the bottom of the child's nose (allergic crease)
  • Dark circles under the child's eyes (allergic shiners)
  • Itchy nose
  • Red eyes, with tearing and itching
  • Rubbing the nose a lot (allergic salute)
  • Runny nose with clear discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose (congestion)

Food Allergies

Although you can be allergic to almost any food, 90% of children with a food allergy are going to be allergic to one of these 'allergy foods':

  • Cow's milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (cod, salmon, tuna, etc.) and shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster)
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans (soy milk, tofu, etc.)
  • Tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, pistachios, etc.)
  • Wheat

If your child eats a food that they are allergic to, they will quickly develop any number of food allergy symptoms, which can range from simple hives and vomiting to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Seasonal Allergies

Classic triggers of seasonal allergies include:

  • Grasses (late spring and early summer)
  • Outdoor molds (season varies depending on where you live and can be year-round in some areas)
  • Ragweed and other weeds (late summer and fall)
  • Trees (early spring)

You can often tell that your child has seasonal allergies if their allergy symptoms start or get worse each year during a specific season, although that is sometimes hard to track. You may also notice that your child's seasonal allergy symptoms are better on days that it rains and are worse when it is dry and windy since pollen can move around better on those days.

Indoor Allergies

While most things that cause seasonal allergies are outside, these children with year-round or perennial allergies are usually allergic to things inside your house, such as:

  • Animal dander (cat and dog allergies)
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Indoor molds

Learning to control these allergy triggers is important to reduce your child's indoor allergies.

Other Allergy Triggers

In addition to foods, dust, and pollens, other common allergy triggers can include:

  • Additives in foods or medications, such as the food dye tartrazine (Yellow No. 5) and sulfites
  • Adhesive
  • Ingredients in topical medications, such as neomycin and bacitracin (antibiotics), PABA (sunscreens), and lidocaine (topical anti-itch creams)
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Latex
  • Medications, especially antibiotics like penicillin and sulfa drugs
  • Poison ivy

Allergy Relief

To get allergy relief for their kids, it can help if parents:

  • Avoid allergy triggers as much as possible. This may include putting a special allergy-proof cloth mattress cover on your child's mattress if they are allergic to dust mites or keeping windows closed in your car and home when pollen counts are high if they have seasonal allergies.
  • Consider a combination of medications, such as an antihistamine and a nasal steroid
  • Consider allergy shots if your child has moderate to severe allergy symptoms that are hard to control
  • Consider giving your child an allergy medicine every day, especially during their allergy season
  • Figure out what is triggering your child's allergies with a symptom diary or allergy testing
  • Try nasal washes to clear allergens, irritants, and mucus from your child's nose

Allergy Medicines

Since avoiding allergy triggers can be tough, especially if your child has seasonal allergies, many children with allergies require allergy medicines for allergy relief. Fortunately, a variety of allergy medicines available, even for younger children.

Allergy medicines can include:

  • Allergy eye drops: Acular (ketorolac), Optivar (azelastine), Pataday (olopatadine), Patanol (olopatadine), Zaditor (ketotifen)
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays: Astelin (azelastine), Patanase (olopatadine)
  • OTC antihistamine nasal sprays: Astepro (azelastine hydrochloride), which is a steroid-free option that was approved for nonprescription use for treating seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis for people ages six and up in June 2021
  • Leukotriene antagonists: Singulair (montelukast)
  • Older sedating antihistamines: Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Extendryl (chlorpheniramine)
  • OTC antihistamines: Allegra (fexofenadine), Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Xyzal (levocetirizine)
  • Prescription antihistamines: Clarinex (desloratadine)
  • Steroid nasal sprays: Flonase (fluticasone), Nasonex (mometasone), Omnaris (ciclesonide), Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide), Veramyst (fluticasone)

What You Need To Know

Allergy shots are often overlooked as an option to treat children with hard-to-control allergies. Some parents don't think that they are available for children, while others don't think that children will tolerate getting allergy shots every week.

Allergy testing can be helpful if your child has hard-to-control allergies, asthma, or eczema.

Contact your child's pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your child's allergies. Additionally, a pediatric allergist can be helpful to diagnose and manage your child's allergies.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves a nasal antihistamine for nonprescription use. Released June 17, 2021.

Additional Reading
  • Adkinson: Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 6th ed.
  • Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed.