Millions of Americans have pollen allergies, an unusual sensitivity to substances that are normally harmless. The most common allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, watery and itchy eyes and a scratchy throat. If you suspect your child has pollen allergies, here are some tips to minimize exposure:
- Pollen is at its highest levels in late evening and early morning. Avoid going outside during peak levels. Also keep your windows closed as much as possible, especially during those hours.
- Check the weather network for forecasts of local pollen counts and if you can, avoid going outside on a day when the pollen count is high (especially a dry, windy day.)
- Keep the windows closed in your home and car, using air conditioners when possible. Air conditioning recirculates indoor air, instead of outside air which carries pollen.
- Have someone kill weeds by cutting them or using weed killers.
- Use HEPA filters in the home, including HEPA air filters and vacuum cleaners. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particle Arrester, which is a type of filter designed to absorb most particles floating in the air.
- Do not hang your laundry out to dry. Pollen collects on the clothing/sheets and increases pollen exposure inside your home.
- If your child spends time playing outside, wash their hair before they go to sleep. Pollen settles on the scalp/hair and then falls on their pillows when they lay down.
If your child continues to experience symptoms, consider using an over the counter antihistamine. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) comes as 12.5 mg/tsp or 12.5 mg chewable tabs, and as 12.5 OR 25 mg tabs/capsules. This is strictly an antihistamine. It can be used for allergies, to dry up a runny nose, or for itching and hives. Benadryl usually makes children sleepy, but in about 5% of patients causes a “paradoxical” reaction and makes them hyper. (Don’t try it for the first time when you are boarding an airplane with a toddler, in case they happen to be one of those 5%.) Benadryl should be given every 6 hours as needed. Since the medicine may make your child sleepy, some people try to use a slightly lower dose during the day, with the full dose given at night.
|Weight||Dose in mg||Liquid||Chewable|
|10-14 lbs||6.25 mg||½ tsp|
|15-20 lbs||9.375 mg||¾ tsp|
|21-25 lbs||12.5 mg||1 tsp||1 tablet|
|26-30 lbs||15.625 mg||1¼ tsp||1¼ tablet|
|31-35 lbs||18.75 mg||1½ tsp||1½ tablet|
|36-40 lbs||21.875 mg||1¾ tsp||1¾ tablet|
|Over 40 lbs||25 mg||2 tsp||2 tablets|
|Over 12 yrs||25-50 mg||2-4 tsp||2-4 tablets|
Another commonly used antihistamine is Chlortrimeton (chlorpheniramine) which comes as 4 mg tablets or 2mg / teaspoon liquid, and is given every 6-8 hours as needed.
|Age||Dose in mg||Liquid Dose||Tablet Dose|
|Under 1 yr||Do not use!||Do not use!||Do not use!|
|1-2 yrs||1 mg||½ tsp||–|
|3-6 yrs||1.5 mg||¾ tsp||–|
|7-11 yrs||2 mg||1 tsp||½ tablet|
|12+ yrs||4 mg||2 tsp||1 tablet|
Some of the newer non-sedating antihistamines (Claritin, Alavert, Zyrtec) are also available without a prescription and come in liquid, tablet, and “melt-away” tablet forms. Ask your pharmacist for assistance if necessary.
Most insurance companies now insist that you try some over the counter products first. Only if it can be documented that your child had inadequate responses to those medicines will they allow coverage for some of the prescription allergy medicines. You may want to check with your insurance company regarding their policies.