Seasonal allergies – also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis – cause sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy, watery eyes, sore throat, sinus headaches and general discomfort in many children. Allergies are provoked by high pollen levels as well as mold and spores that occur more heavily during certain times of the year.

Seasonal allergies arise in early spring and continue through early summer, and then are seen again in the fall. While many associate seasonal allergies with the advent of spring and blooming foliage, some children suffer during both allergy seasons.

In the fall, with symptoms triggered by common fall allergens like ragweed and mold, it’s important for parents to take a pre-emptive approach. This means planning ahead and starting medications one to two weeks prior to the beginning of the allergy season in August and continuing the medicine for the recommended amount of time.

To help control most children’s allergies, parents can purchase over-the-counter antihistamine remedies, such as Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra. These medicines are not likely to cause drowsiness and can help calm the body’s immune reaction against allergens.

Here are some additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics ( to help control seasonal allergies:

  • Don’t let children out to play early in the morning. Pollen is heavier early in the morning.
  • Keep children indoors when grass is mowed and prevent them from playing in fields of tall grass.
  • In the fall, children should avoid playing in piles of dead leaves.
  • Don’t leave windows open during allergy season; run the air conditioner in both your home and car.
  • Keep pets bathed regularly to remove pollen from their fur and keep the pets out of the child’s bedroom.
  • Shower or bathe your child at the end of the day to remove allergens from the body and hair.

When home remedies and over the counter medications don’t relieve your child’s symptoms, consult with your child’s pediatric or family medicine provider. It may be necessary for the provider to prescribe antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids to effectively combat the symptoms your child is experiencing. In particular, a child with a chronic secondary condition, such as asthma, may experience more severe symptoms and may need to be referred by his or her provider to an allergist. 

Respiratory Distress in Babies and Children

Allergies can trigger respiratory issues, particularly when a child has a secondary condition. It can be frightening when a baby or toddler starts having breathing problems, and the struggle for parents and caregivers is knowing when to handle it on your own and when to call the pediatrician or go to the ER or a QuickCare center. It is very important to learn the signs of respiratory distress in your child, so you can respond appropriately.

Common signs of respiratory distress that need medical care immediately:

  • Increased breathing rate
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Belly breathing – abdominal muscles visibly expand and contract during breathing
  • Retractions – chest sinks in, breaths are deeper
  • Wheezing
  • Color changes – bluish tint seen around the mouth, inside the lips or on the fingernails
  • Coughing to the point of vomiting

If you suspect your child is also affected by a virus, watch for these signs of worsening illness:

  • Fever showing up in the middle of an illness
  • Persistent fever
  • Increasing or worsening cough

When a parent or caregiver notices these indications, the child should be seen by a healthcare provider right away to be evaluated or reevaluated.

If your child is experiencing symptoms of seasonal allergies and you need more information, Valley Health has pediatric and family medicine providers in neighborhood health centers throughout the Tri-State to help. Find a location near you at


Meet the Author, Traci Phillips, FNP, and learn about Valley Health – Southside

Traci Phillips, Family Nurse PractitionerTraci Phillips, FNP-BC, sees young patients full time at Valley Health–Southside. She has been with Valley Health for seven years and is dedicated to the health and well-being of area children.

When asked about the services offered at Valley Health – Southside, Phillips explained, “We have a very well-rounded group of providers with years of experience handling all aspects of children’s health care. The staff includes pediatricians and nurse practitioners as well as two children’s psychologists and a dietitian – to help children with weight management and other issues.”

Phillips continued, “With so much coverage, plus extended hours Monday through Thursday, Valley Health – Southside is able to give parents tremendous access to care for their children. While we encourage appointments, walk-in care is available, too.”

Valley Health – Southside welcomes new patients Monday through Thursday between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and on Fridays between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, please call 304-529-0645.

Citations from the American Academy of Pediatrics: