How to best handle kids' fall allergies


Perhaps you think of allergies as being most bothersome-and most likely to occur-during the spring and summer months, when pollens and molds are seemingly everywhere.

But allergies can occur in the fall, too, and so if your child has allergies, it's important that you make sure he or she continues to use prescribed allergy medicine when the autumn leaves start falling, says Dr. Gaurav Kumar, a LifeBridge Health pediatrician.

"Especially in the fall, there's a big increase in allergy symptoms, typically starting around mid to late August through mid to late November," Kumar says. "During that time, it's important for children to once again start back up on their maintenance allergy medicine."

Fall allergy triggers, outdoor molds in particular, are in soil, compost piles and leaves that cover the ground.

Ragweed pollen (which can travel far beyond areas where ragweed plants grow) and mold spores (which can survive harsh environmental conditions that do not support normal mold growth) are the biggest allergy triggers in the fall, Kumar says. Mold can be found virtually anywhere year-round. Mold and dust mites are common in school buildings.

Fall allergies can cause the usual symptoms:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

Often, the first instinct is to turn to a quick-acting remedy, or "spot treatment" as Kumar calls it, for fall allergies. Some children, however, may require daily allergy medicine such as nasal spray that works best after taking it for a while.

"A lot of folks rely upon only the quick-acting medicine, and that works pretty well for many people. But some people need to be on medicine you start taking two or three weeks before allergy symptoms occur so that it's already in place and doing its job," Kumar says. "Sometimes, the quick-acting medicines are not good enough." 

Kumar adds: "Children who need daily treatment for fall allergies should start it by mid-September."

Allergy symptoms are very similar to cold symptoms, which can cause parents more confusion as to which treatments their child may need, particularly if the child has not been diagnosed with any allergies. "There are certain viruses that can produce a cold and are more active in the fall," Kumar says.

Even if you think it's only a cold, you should make an appointment for your child with a pediatrician to check for allergies and learn the proper treatment. "We can examine the nose and the back of the throat, and that can give us a lot of clues about whether it's more likely to be a cold or allergies," Kumar says.

In addition to nasal spray, antihistamine is a standard treatment for allergies. "There are several antihistamines out there that don't cause you to be sleepy, so that's what we often recommend for kids," Kumar says.

In addition to medication, you can take these measures to help your child avoid allergens:

  • Use air conditioning (when needed) and keep windows closed (including when sleeping at night).
  • Thoroughly wash/groom household pets regularly and keep them indoors as much as possible, as they can attract allergens from outdoors.
  • Keep track of pollen counts via weather forecasts.
  • Avoid going outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the pollen count is high.

LifeBridge Health is committed to providing excellent pediatric care for many conditions. Dr. Kumar has immediate appointments available at LifeBridge Health Pediatrics-Baltimore North in the Lutherville-Timonium area.

You can also schedule an appointment with a LifeBridge Health physician by calling 410-601-WELL.