With summer fast approaching, children remain magnets for colds. When the cold symptoms don’t go away, allergies may be the cause. A runny nose that lasts for weeks or long-lasting itchy eyes may signal that your child is breathing in something to which they are allergic. (These are also called allergens).
An allergy specialist can diagnose your child’s allergies and take away the guessing game of what to do next.
You have several options to treat your child’s nasal and eye allergies. The place to start with treatment is to have your child avoid the allergen causing symptoms. However, that is often not possible or practical.
When avoidance doesn’t work, you may choose to try one of the available over-the-counter allergy medications. Your child can use antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays to relieve their symptoms. You may find that one particular medication works better than others. But you also may find that your child’s symptoms don’t improve at all. Either way, these medications won’t do anything to help strengthen your child’s immune system.
Another treatment option for your child is Allergen Immunotherapy (AIT). This is a treatment prescribed by your allergy specialists that uses natural allergen substances, such as pollen from plants. AIT can be an alternative or add-on to allergy medicine and avoidance therapy. AIT helps your child’s immune system by exposing them to a tiny amount of an allergen. Your child’s body then gets used to the allergen over time and stops overreacting when exposed. AIT aims to reduce your child’s allergy symptoms and their need for medications.
There are two FDA-approved options for AIT in children: allergy shots and allergy (under-the-tongue, fast-dissolving) tablets. Allergy shots have been around for 100 years and are the mainstay of therapy in the United States. Your doctor’s office will administer the allergy shots to your child. If your child is fearful of shots, allergy tablets are FDA-approved alternatives. Your child can take once tablet a day at home after receiving the first dose in the doctor’s office.
Just last month, FDA approved the ragweed AIT tablet for children 5 years and older. The ragweed tablet now joins the grass tablet as two “shot-less” AIT treatment options for children.
You will always be your child’s best advocate. There are many resources available on Allergy & Asthma Network’s website where you can learn more about AIT and other treatment options.
The next step is to talk with your allergy specialist to ensure your child is properly diagnosed. Then discuss which treatment option best fits your child’s and family’s lifestyle. Let’s make it a great and allergy symptom-free summer!
This article was supported by a medical education grant from ALK.