The end of summer doesn’t just bring on the start of autumn and the school year. It’s also the start of ragweed allergy season. How do you know if your child has allergies and how should they be treated if they do? Hunter Hoover, MD, of Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. joins us this month to discuss this season’s allergies.
What allergies are associated with the fall months?
What symptoms would a child have?
The classic symptoms are itchy, watery eyes, an itchy runny nose, and sneezing. They can also end up developing nasal congestion.
How do you know if a child has allergies or is sick?
Initially it’s hard because they both have runny or stopped-up noses. One clue is colds make you sick. You have a fever, a sore throat, and a cough. While allergies can make you sluggish, you won’t have a fever, a cough, etc. Also, a cold should get better after a week or so, while with allergies your child will go 3 or 4 weeks without improvement. Finally, you get allergies the same time every year. One symptom you’ll only get with allergies is itchy, watery eyes. Colds and sinus infections don’t cause itching.
Are over-the-counter medicines good for a child?
Nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase, Nasacort, and Rhinocort are the best medicines for allergies. Anthistamines like Claritin are good for a runny nose and eyes but aren’t good for a stopped-up nose. They don’t help as many symptoms as sprays.
If your child has fall allergies, they should start taking a nasal spray every fall at the beginning of the school year and continue until the first frost.
Nasal sprays are safe and they’re not addictive, but they two downsides: one, they have to be used every day and they have to be taken for a few days before you start to see signs of improvement. Two, kids don’t like using them. Rhinocort has no scent and the spray is low-volume, so kids might prefer it over others. If they have mild symptoms, using something like Allegra or Zyrtec sporadically is fine.
When should you take your child to an allergist?
You should take them when you’re uncertain if your child has allergies or if sprays don’t work. Allergists can perform tests, known as “scratch tests,” to see what your child may be allergic to.
Are children able to take allergy shots/drops/tablets if their allergies are severe?
Tablets for ragweed allergies are available. Unfortunately, you have to take them three months before the season starts, so it’s too late for them now. Allergy shots are also available if necessary.
Will children ever outgrow allergies?
No, most people whose allergies start in childhood will see them continue into adulthood.
Dr. Hoover is a comprehensive otolaryngologist who attended the University of North Carolina for his undergraduate and medical degrees. His internship was at Eastern Virginia Medical School and his residency was at the Medical University of South Carolina. He practices in our SouthPark office.