When are Allergy Medications Appropriate for Kids?
Jacqueline M. Kelderhouse
First, it's important to make sure that your child is suffering from allergies and not a cold. If she's been sniffling for more than two weeks, that's a sign she's sensitive to a trigger -- and you should consult your health care provider. Based on the severity of your kid's symptoms and her age, your pediatrician or nurse practitioner may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription medication. Here are some of the most common treatments, including age restrictions, as of May 2011:
This medication, available both over-the-counter and with a prescription, works by blocking histamines, the chemicals the body releases in response to an allergen. Since older forms of antihistamines can linger in your kid's body and make her sleepy all day, I recommend the second-generation antihistamines, which are non-drowsy. Of course, make sure to check with your doctor before giving your child any medication. Prescription antihistamines are available for kids as young as 6 months. And some OTC forms are recommended for children as young as 2, while others are discouraged for use in children younger than 12.
Available in spray or pill form (OTC or with an Rx), decongestants help constrict blood vessels in the body to ease symptoms, like stuffy nose. One side effect is that they may make your child jittery. If you opt for the spray, don't use it for more than three consecutive days. Decongestants are not recommended for children younger than 4; for older children, make sure to check with your doctor to provide the most appropriate dosage and to ensure that it does not counteract any other medications your child is taking.
Steroid sprays or drops
This type of prescription-only medicine is available to kids as young as 2 years old. It works by lessening inflammation and mucus production to provide allergy relief.
Of course, with each of these medications, it's crucial that you read labels (or follow your doctor's recommendations) and give your child the appropriate amount. Many moms often eyeball a dose with a spoon, which can lead to an overdose. Stick with the measuring cup or syringe that's provided.
Along with these syrups, sprays and pills, try a few easy changes to help reduce your child's exposure to allergens:
- Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking pollen into your house
- Wash sheets regularly
- Invest in a HEPA air filter
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