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Allergic Rhinitis in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is swelling inside your child's nose caused by an allergen. An allergen can be anything that causes an allergic reaction. Allergies to weeds, grass, trees, or mold often cause seasonal allergic rhinitis. Indoor dust mites or pet dander can also cause allergic rhinitis. Seasonal allergic rhinitis means your child has symptoms during the spring, summer, or fall season. Perennial allergic rhinitis means your child has symptoms all year.

What are the signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
  • A sore or scratchy throat
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Severe tiredness
  • Dark circles under your child's eyes
  • Rash or hives
  • Headache

How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine him or her. Tell the provider if you know which allergens trigger your child's symptoms. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A skin prick test may show what your child is allergic to. A provider lightly pricks or scratches your child's skin with tiny amounts of a possible allergen. The provider watches to see how your child's skin reacts. If a bump appears within a few minutes, your child is likely allergic to the allergen.
  • A blood test may show what your child is allergic to.

How is allergic rhinitis treated?

  • Medicines may help decrease your child's symptoms. Examples include antihistamines, decongestants, and certain steroids or asthma medicines. These may come as a pill, eye drops, nasal spray, or a tablet to put under your child's tongue.
  • Allergy shots , or immunotherapy, may be needed if your child's symptoms are severe or other treatments do not work. At first, tiny amounts of an allergen are injected into your child's skin. The amount of allergen is slowly increased over time. This may help your child's body be less sensitive to the allergen and stop reacting to it. Your child may need allergy shots for weeks or longer.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my child's allergic rhinitis?

Help your child avoid allergens as much as possible. Any of the following may help decrease your child's symptoms:

  • Decrease exposure to dust mites. Wash stuffed animals, soft toys, sheets, and blankets in hot water every week. Cover your child's pillow and mattress with allergen-free covers. Vacuum often. Remove carpets and curtains if possible. These collect dust and dust mites.
  • Decrease exposure to pollen. Keep your child inside as much as possible when air pollution or the pollen count is high. Use an air conditioner and keep windows and doors closed. Add a filter designed for allergies if possible. Have your child bathe before bed every night to rinse away pollen.
  • Decrease exposure to pet dander. If you have pets, try to keep them out of bedrooms and carpeted areas. Bathe pets often, if appropriate.
  • Decrease exposure to mold. Limit the time your child spends in basements. Do not have standing water in your home or yard.
  • Rinse your child's nose and sinuses if directed. Use a salt water spray or solution. This will help thin the mucus and decrease swelling in your child's nose. This will also rinse away pollen and dirt.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child is struggling to breathe, or is wheezing.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child's symptoms get worse, even after treatment.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has trouble sleeping because of his or her symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.