Guest Post by Katy Fleming, MA, LPC, BSN, RN
As the spring season blossoms, so do our seasonal allergies. Known as allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies affect 18.9% of children in the United States.
When your little one continues to struggle with a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing, you may suspect it’s more than a cold.
Can Babies Have Seasonal Allergies?
Is it possible for your baby to have seasonal allergies, too? The short answer, allergic rhinitis is not common in infants. Let’s break down the symptoms, expectations, and occurrence of seasonal allergies in children.
What Exactly are Seasonal Allergies?
Allergies occur when your body’s immune system overreacts to a harmless substance called allergens. The immune system mistakenly thinks foreign substances, such as pollen, are harmful.
As our main protector, the immune system kicks into gear by developing antibodies. In allergic rhinitis, the antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE), is sent in to defend against pollen, grass, and other similar substances found in the spring, fall, and summer seasons.
This releases chemicals, such as histamines, to protect you. However, those chemicals cause seasonal allergy symptoms. A person may develop an allergy to one specific type of pollen, or even a few types of pollen.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- A (clear) runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, red eyes
- Itchy or tingling throat
When Do Seasonal Allergies Develop?
Seasonal allergies may begin at almost any age, however, they typically develop before age 20.
According to the CDC, children ages 0-5 are significantly less likely to develop seasonal allergies than children ages 6-17 years old. It’s rare to see in newborns or children before the age of 2 years old.
Since these allergens, such as pollen and grass, are found outside, newborns are unlikely to develop seasonal allergies. Our newest additions to the family typically spend the beginning of their lives sleeping safely indoors.
Any type of person can struggle with allergic rhinitis, however, a family history typically exists for those who do. Children with asthma are at a higher risk for seasonal allergies, as well.
Cold Vs. Seasonal Allergies
It’s tough to distinguish between cold symptoms and allergic rhinitis at times. When your little one begins sneezing and wiping their nose, what should you do? Let’s identify a few factors in determining the difference between the common cold and seasonal allergies:
1. Duration: If the symptoms are lasting a few weeks to months, then it’s most likely seasonal allergies. Assess if these symptoms occurred last spring or summer, as well.
A cough may last a few weeks in the common cold, however, the first initial days are the most symptomatic typically. Then, your child should gradually begin feeling better rather than feeling these symptoms consistently throughout the season.
2. Age: As we stated, infants are highly unlikely to experience allergic rhinitis. Most children don’t begin developing this until ages 3 and up.
3. Family/Friends: Does someone close to your child have these symptoms currently, as well? Then it’s more likely a virus. Does a parent or even both parents struggle with seasonal allergies? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Other helpful tips to remember— A tell-tale sign of allergic rhinitis is itchiness, which isn’t associated with the common cold. Also, diarrhea and fever are not symptoms of seasonal allergies.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies, discuss this with your child’s pediatrician. It may help to write down their symptoms, the duration, and if you notice any patterns. For example, if you spent the majority of the day inside or outside could be a helpful pattern to note.
Closing the windows and avoiding outside during high-pollen count days may help your child’s seasonal allergies. Encourage your child to wash their hands, take a bath, and change their clothes after playing outside to reduce contact with pollen.
Discuss appropriate treatments and other ways to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms with your child’s pediatrician.
More information on seasonal allergies:
- Why Are Allergies Worse At Night?
- 6 Foods That Help Calm Seasonal Allergies
- Spring Allergies Are Here: What Parents Need to Know
- Do You Know The Difference in Children's Allergy Medication?
- 3 Tips For Allergy Relief
As a licensed counselor and registered nurse, Katy approaches freelance writing with years of experience and a unique perspective. Alongside her partner, Katy loves to travel the world and embrace other cultures from volcanoes in Iceland to villages in India.
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