Allergy Medicine Tips for Children

You can't cure your child’s allergies, but you can help your little one feel better.

There are many types of allergies. If your child has the nasal kind -- such as reactions to pollen -- you’ll want to know what types of medicines are out there.

With any type of drug, be sure to follow the directions on the label.

Antihistamine Basics

When your child has an allergic reaction, his body releases a chemical called histamine. That’s what makes his nose stuffy or runny. It can also make his eyes itchy and watery.

Antihistamines are usually the first medications used to treat allergies. Like their name suggests, they block the effect of histamine.

Things to Know:

  • Some are short-acting and are taken every 4 to 6 hours.
  • Longer-acting timed-release ones are taken every 12 to 24 hours.
  • Some medicines combine an antihistamine and a decongestant.
  • The most common side effects are drowsiness and dry mouth.

Ask your pediatrician which medicine is best for your child.

When Kids Should Take Antihistamines

Most experts say you should take these meds before symptoms start in order to keep them at bay.

Ask your pediatrician whether you should give your child allergy medicine:

Before bed. Allergy symptoms are often worse between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. If you give him medicine before he goes to sleep, it could control his morning symptoms.

Before allergy season. If your child is allergic to pollen, you may want to start an antihistamine before pollen season, for 3 to 10 days.

All the time. If your little one has year-round allergies, he may need to take allergy medication regularly to prevent symptoms.

Common Antihistamines

Examples of prescription-strength ones include:

Most eyedrops are recommended only for children over 3. Common prescription ones include:

An over-the-counter eyedrop option is ketotifen fumarate (Zaditor).

Over-the-counter antihistamines include:

Nasal Spray Basics

Steroid nose sprays fight inflammation and help your child breathe better. They can be liquids or aerosol puffs, and they're used once or more a day.

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They reduce mucus, itching, and congestion. They take a while to work. You need a prescription to get them.

For best results:

Make sure your child sprays the medication away from the septum, the thin wall between the nostrils.

If his nose has thick mucus, clear it first with a spray saline solution or have him blow his nose.

Your doctor may want him to keep taking antihistamines and other allergy drugs until the nose spray kicks in, usually in a week or two.

Other Meds

Singulair is a prescription drug that can prevent asthma attacks. It’s also approved for treating allergies. It eases congestion in the nose and also cuts down on sneezing, itching, and eye allergies. It blocks the release of inflammatory chemicals that swell nasal passages and make a lot of mucus.

Prescription eyedrops can relieve and prevent itchy eyes. Your child may need to use them every day.

It may take a while to find the right medication or combination for your little one. Work with your doctor to create a plan that lets your child do all the things he wants to do.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on March 23, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

AAAAI.org, Spring Allergies & Asthma Survival Guide: "Position Statement: OTC Antihistamines," "Understanding pollen and mold count," "Tips to Remember: Asthma and Allergy Medicines."

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: "Tips to remember: Asthma and Allergy Medications."

The American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Billions of Ragweed Pollen Grains Cause Most Seasonal Allergies."

American Lung Association: "How to Control Hay Fever."

CDC: "Antihistamines."

Merk Manual Home Edition: "Asthma."

Palo Alto Medical Foundation: "Mast Cell Stabilizers."

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