Seasonal allergies in toddlers: symptoms, causes, treatment

Seasonal allergies are the body’s immune response to environmental allergens. Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are very common and occur in about 15% of children. Anyone can develop seasonal allergies, but they are more common in toddlers whose parents and siblings have allergies.

Common symptoms include itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. There are several possible causes of seasonal allergies, including dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Toddlers usually experience dust allergies and rarely have pollen allergies.

This article describes the most common causes of seasonal allergies in toddlers and how to treat them.

Verywell / Katie Kerpel


What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies in toddlers occur when your little one’s body has an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Common allergy triggers in children include dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Your child may have seasonal allergies if you notice that they experience a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion at around the same time each year.

Common allergies

Toddlers ages 1 to 2 are more likely to have indoor allergies such as dust mites and pet dander. Children in preschool ages between 3 and 5 are more likely to have outdoor allergies, such as pollen.

Research shows that toddlers with eczema are more likely to develop seasonal allergies. If your child has eczema, talk to your healthcare provider or pediatrician about the signs of allergies to watch for.

Dust

Dust is a common allergen for toddlers. It includes dust particles and dust mites. Since dust is present in our homes all year round, you may notice that your toddler has allergy symptoms every day, rather than just a few weeks a year. Dust mites often collect in places such as upholstered furniture, bedding, linens, and rugs.

To address dust allergies, wash your child’s bedding in warm water every two to three weeks to kill dust mites. Aim to replace pillows every two to three years.

Mold

Mold can be present both indoors and outdoors and can affect children and adults of all ages. It is usually too small to see, so you may not notice your child being exposed to it.

Outdoor fungi are usually present in spring and late summer, especially around decaying vegetation. Toddlers with mold allergies should not play in piles of leaves in the fall as this can be very irritating. Mold can also be present in homes, especially if the house is very damp.

Pet dander

Your toddler may be allergic to pets with hair or fur. This includes cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils or other furry pets. If you notice your child sneezing or rubbing their eyes or nose after petting an animal, they may be allergic to pet dander.

Pollen

Pollen is present in trees, plants, grass and weeds. It can also be airborne, so it’s hard to avoid. Pollen allergy symptoms usually last about four to eight weeks at the same time each year. Tree pollen is highest in the spring, grass pollen in the summer, and weed pollen in the fall.

Since pollen can be found in the air, you and your toddler will be exposed to it when you leave the house. If you think your child may have hay fever, try not to play outside in the mornings when the pollen count is highest. Also, don’t go outside on windy days. Air conditioning is also better than keeping the windows open.

Symptoms

Allergy symptoms in toddlers include:

  • to sneeze
  • Cough
  • Running nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Accumulation
  • Skin rash
  • Hives
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty breathing

Toddlers who experience seasonal allergies often rub their eyes and nose throughout the day. You may notice a small crease on your little one’s nose caused by them pushing their nose up throughout the day. They also often eat and sleep with their mouths open because they can breathe more easily that way.

Toddlers with seasonal allergies may be at higher risk of developing ear infections. Seasonal allergies can lead to inflammation in the ear, which can cause fluid to build up. When the fluid becomes infected, an ear infection occurs.

Diagnosis

If you suspect your child may have seasonal allergies, talk to your healthcare provider. They may start by asking you to keep a diary of your child’s symptoms. This can be a helpful tool for figuring out which allergen is causing your toddler’s symptoms.

When you meet with your child’s doctor, they will ask several questions about when symptoms started and how long they last. Your healthcare provider will ask you about any treatments you’ve tried and whether they worked. They will also perform a physical exam and inspect your child’s eyes, ears, nose, and throat. They can discuss allergy testing with you to determine your child’s specific triggers.

Therapy

There are several options for treating seasonal allergies in toddlers. Allergy medicines, known as antihistamines, can help control the symptoms of allergies such as runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. However, they do not cure the allergy itself.

Talk to your healthcare provider or pediatrician about possible treatment options such as:

Some types of allergy medications, especially Benadryl, can cause drowsiness. Keep an eye on your toddler when trying a new medication to see if they seem tired or grumpy about it. It may be helpful to administer the medicine at bedtime.

How to find relief

If your little one suffers from seasonal allergies, there are several steps you can take at home to give them some relief. First, try to identify which allergen is causing the problem and avoid it as best you can.

If your child is sensitive to pollen, try playing outside in the afternoon, as pollen tends to peak in the morning. Sunglasses can help if your toddler gets itchy eyes while playing outside. Avoid opening the windows on hot days as this encourages pollen to enter your home. If your child has allergy symptoms after playing outside, offer him a cold, wet washcloth to put over his eyes. This can be difficult for a toddler to keep up with, so try reading them a story while they are resting.

Consider installing a HEPA filter in your central air conditioner to remove allergens from the air. It may also help to bathe your child every night before bed. This will help remove allergens such as dust or pollen from their skin and help them sleep.

Overview

Seasonal allergies are a relatively common problem for toddlers and occur when your child’s body has an immune response to something in the environment. Common allergens that affect toddlers include dust, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Symptoms may include sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and congestion. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage your toddler’s allergy symptoms.

A word from very good

Seasonal allergies can be very uncomfortable and none of us want to see our children suffer. If you’re concerned that your child may have seasonal allergies, know that help is available. Talk to your healthcare provider about medication options and keep a diary of when your child seems to have the most symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

    The best way to tell the difference between a cold and allergies is to pay attention to your child’s symptoms. Both conditions can cause a runny nose and congestion. Allergies usually cause an itchy nose and eyes, while a cold can cause a fever.

  • At what age do seasonal allergies start in children?

    Seasonal allergies usually start in children 3 to 5 years old.

  • Is There a Difference Between Seasonal Allergies in Toddlers vs Kids?

    Babies and toddlers are more likely to suffer from indoor allergies such as house dust and dust mites. Older children are more likely to experience outdoor allergies such as pollen.

  • Are there any home remedies you can try for allergies in toddlers?

    To ease your toddler’s allergy symptoms, there are a few simple steps you can take at home. If they are experiencing itchy eyes, have them lie down with a cold, damp washcloth over their eyes. This will help clear any pollen and relieve the itching. Give your child a bath every night to remove any allergens on their skin. This will hopefully reduce their nighttime symptoms and help them sleep. Finally, avoid your child’s known allergens as best you can.


By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH

Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain and public health.

Seasonal allergies in toddlers: symptoms, causes, treatment

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