Rhonda Patt

Ask the Pediatrician: Help for kids suffering from spring allergies

Pollen counts are climbing, which means sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines, protection against exposure and nasal sprays can help.
Pollen counts are climbing, which means sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines, protection against exposure and nasal sprays can help. ISTOCK

Q. My son is suffering from spring allergies, especially on days he plays soccer outside. Is there anything besides antihistamines that can help with his sneezing and itchy, watery eyes?

A. Pollen counts are definitely on the rise, and spring allergy sufferers are feeling it. When a person with allergies is exposed to a trigger such as pollen, the body releases chemicals called leukotrienes and histamine. These chemicals cause the symptoms we classically associate with allergies: sneezing, itchy watery eyes and runny nose.

Antihistamines target these chemicals to prevent allergy symptoms. Allergy medications are most effective if they are started prior to exposure. Long-acting antihistamines, such as cetirizine or loratadine, are safe for children and available over the counter.

Another great option is a nasal steroid spray. Nasal steroid sprays (such as Flonase or Nasocort) are now available over the counter and can be used with antihistamines.

When pollen counts are high, bathe children after they play outside and keep car and house windows closed, if possible, to reduce exposure to pollen. Hats and sunglasses can help keep pollen away from the face and eyes.

If these measures don't help, visit the pediatrician or allergist and review the treatment plan. Eventually, allergy shots may be recommended. For more information about spring allergies and local pollen counts, visit aaaai.org.

Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email living@charlotteobserver.com; put “pediatrician” in the subject line.

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