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Treatment for a Child's Allergy to Dust or Pollen

Your child's healthcare provider will consider your child's age, overall health, how severe the allergic reaction was, and other factors when advising treatment. The most effective ways to treat allergies are:

  • Staying away from (avoiding) the allergen

  • Medicine

  • Allergy shots (immunotherapy)

What is avoidance?

Avoidance means staying away from a substance that causes an allergic reaction.

Suggestions for staying away from some allergens include:

  • Stay indoors with the windows closed when the pollen count is high, and on windy days.

  • Control dust in the home, especially in your child's bedroom.

    • When possible, remove wall-to-wall carpet, window blinds, and down-filled blankets or pillows.

    • Wash bedding, curtains, and clothing often. Use hot water. This helps get rid of dust mites.

    • Put dust mite covers on pillows and mattresses.

  • Use air conditioning instead of opening the windows.

  • Put a dehumidifier in damp areas of the home. Clean it often.

  • After playing outside on days when the pollen count is high, have your child take a shower. They should also wash their hair and change clothes.   

  • Take vacations in places where pollen is not as common. This includes near the ocean.

Your child's healthcare provider will also have other suggestions.

Medicine as treatment for allergy

For children who have allergies, there are many effective medicines. These are the most often used types. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against some over-the-counter medicines for babies and young children. Talk with your child's healthcare provider before giving your child any over-the-counter medicines.

What are antihistamines?

Antihistamines are used to ease or prevent symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and other allergies. They prevent the effects of histamine. This is a substance the body makes during an allergic reaction. Newer antihistamines cause less drowsiness than older ones. Ask your healthcare provider which antihistamine you should give your child. Antihistamines come in tablet, capsule, liquid, or injection form. They are available both over-the-counter and by prescription.

What are decongestants?

Decongestants treat nasal congestion and other symptoms of colds and allergies. They cause the blood vessels to narrow. This clears up of nasal congestion. Decongestants are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. The most often used forms are liquid, tablet, nasal sprays, or nose drops. The AAP does not recommend oral decongestants for children. They can cause a faster heart rate, hyperactivity, anxiousness, and problems sleeping. Nasal spray or nose drops should be used for only a short time. Regular use of decongestants in any form can cause symptoms to get worse. That's because the body becomes dependent on the medicine.

What are nasal steroids?

Nasal steroids are not the same as steroids used in bodybuilding. These medicines control inflammation in the nose caused by allergies. They take a few days to work. And they are used daily on a regular schedule, not on an as-needed schedule. Many nasal steroids are now sold over the counter. Talk about these medicines with your child's provider before using them.

What are allergy shots (immunotherapy)?

When staying away from allergens and taking daily medicine doesn't work, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be a treatment option. A mixture is made of the different pollens, mold spores, animal danders, and dust mites to which the child is allergic. This mixture is called an allergy extract. There is no medicine in the mixture. The mixture is injected under the skin, often in the fatty tissue in the back of the arm.  It is not painful like an injection into the muscle. Over many months, the allergen dose is slowly increased. The child's immune system builds up an immunity to the allergen. Injection schedules vary. But they start weekly while the doses are increased. Then they are given every other week and finally once a month.

About 80% to 90% of children improve with allergy shots. It often takes 12 to 18 months before definite reduction in allergy symptoms is noticed. In some children, a reduction in symptoms is seen in as soon as 6 to 8 months. After 5 years, most children can stop the treatment and still feel the benefits.

A tablet that dissolves under the tongue might be another way for your child to receive immunotherapy. But this treatment is only available for certain allergens.

Immunotherapy is only part of the treatment plan for allergic children. It takes time for this treatment to work. So your child will need to keep taking the allergy medicines as prescribed by their healthcare provider. It is also important to keep removing allergens, such as dust mites, from your child's environment.

Are there side effects to immunotherapy?

There are 2 types of reactions to immunotherapy: local and systemic. The local reaction is redness and swelling at the injection site. If this keeps happening, then the extract strength or schedule is changed.

A systemic reaction may affect the whole body. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, sneezing, hives, swelling, wheezing, and low blood pressure. These reactions can be serious and even life-threatening. In rare cases this can lead to death. If a systemic reaction occurs, your child may keep taking shots. But the dosage will be lower.

If you have any questions about immunotherapy, talk with your child's healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2018
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