Smart Ways to Fight Fall Allergies

This content has been clinically reviewed by Ann-Marie Brooks, M.D. 

‘Tis the season—for hay fever.

If your child gets a runny nose, itchy eyes and tickly throat around this time of year, he's likely suffering from seasonal fall allergies, which many people refer to as hay fever. One symptom he typically won't have with hay fever is a fever.

Allergies occur when an overactive immune system goes into action against normally harmless substances like pollen from grasses, weeds and trees.

Allergies often start in childhood and continue into adulthood. And if one parent has them, there’s a 25 percent chance that a child will also be allergic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The number goes up to a whopping 60 to 70 percent if both parents have allergies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that kids will be allergic to the same substances as their parents.

Certain therapies such as allergy shots (immunotherapy) can help eliminate some allergies, and most can be managed and controlled with help from your child’s pediatrician.

Is it a Cold, an Allergy or Asthma?

Your child may be suffering from seasonal fall allergies if he develops chronic cold-like symptoms at about the same time every year, and they last more than a week or two. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sniffling
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Tickly throat
  • Thin, clear nasal drainage that persists

Some children also get patches of bumps or itchy, red skin that won’t go away. Others might develop hives, which are itchy skin eruptions that usually last for a few hours and may move to different parts of the body.

Headache, fatigue and nausea can also be associated with allergies.

If your child’s wheezing or having difficulty breathing that seems to be triggered by allergies, or other factors such as exercise, cold air or air pollution, he may have asthma, a chronic disease that starts in the lungs. It’s a different condition than allergies, although most people with asthma also suffer allergy symptoms. If you suspect your child might have asthma, it’s worth a call to your pediatrician.

How to Fight Seasonal Allergies

If your child is showing allergy symptoms, try to reduce his exposure to pollen and mold with some of these pediatrician-approved tips:

In the fall many indoor allergens can also cause problems for children because they’re spending more time inside the house.

Keep an eye out for these at-home allergens:

  • Dust mites – microscopic organisms found in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpet. These can be stirred up when you turn on the heat for the first time, so be sure to clean heating ducts
  • Furry animals (cats, dogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, etc.)
  • Pests, such as cockroaches and mice
  • Molds and fungi

To reduce dust mites, pollen and mold allergens:

  • Cover mattresses, box springs, pillows and cushions in allergen-proof zip-top covers (available through catalogs and specialized retailers).
  • Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
  • Dry clothes in a dryer, not on an outdoor line.
  • Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Have your child wear sunglasses and a hat to help keep pollen out of his eyes and off his hair.

It’s possible that your child may need medication to control his allergy symptoms, so start with your pediatrician, who may prescribe antihistamines, decongestants or nasal corticosteroids. If these are not successful, your doctor may refer you to a pediatric allergy specialist, who may recommend immunotherapy—allergy shots—to reduce allergy symptoms and decrease the need for daily medication.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.