The Sneezing Season

Step 3: Talk to Your Pediatrician

If preventive measures and over-the-counter remedies don't give your child relief, your doctor can prescribe a stronger medication. After taking an in-depth history of your child's allergy patterns, she may recommend one of the following treatments:

Nonsedating antihistamines. A number of prescription antihistamines now on the market control the effects of histamine without making kids sleepy or lethargic. They're also convenient: You need to give these formulas to your child only once a day, making them easier to deal with than over-the-counter antihistamines, which typically must be administered every four hours.

Nasal steroids. Nasal cortico-steroid sprays fight allergies on several levels, reducing inflammation and mucus output and cutting back the number of histamine-producing mast cells. Although there has been concern in the past that steroids could affect children's growth if they were absorbed into the body, nasal sprays keep the drug localized in the nose, and the doses -- which have been approved for kids as young as 3 -- are extremely low. "We're confident that low doses, especially when used only on a seasonal basis, are okay," Dr. Wood says, although the drug can cause a mild burning sensation that some kids don't like.

Allergy shots. If your child suffers from limited seasonal allergies only, injected immunotherapy is usually not needed. With this treat- ment, children receive increasingly concentrated doses of the allergen they react to, which over time produce changes in the immune system (for example, reducing the numbers of antibodies that attack the allergen) and make the body less reactive.

The good news for any child with spring allergies is that there's an end in sight. Your child's symptoms should clear up by May, although some cases can last until mid-July. "Unfortunately, however, if your child reacts in the spring, you can probably look forward to hay fever in the fall as well," Dr. Wood says. "Allergic people tend to react to more than one trigger." But even if your child's symptoms do return in autumn, you'll have a smart treatment strategy already in place.

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