HERSHEY, Pa. — Seasonal allergies are one of the most common health issues facing Americans each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 19 million adults experience hay fever, or environmental induced allergies, annually. However, kids experience seasonal allergies in great numbers as well; the CDC says 5.2 million children experienced allergic symptoms between 2019 and 2020.
Symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, and general fatigue are common for people who experience allergies, but are also experienced in those fighting a cold.
Dr. Alex Horowitz, a pediatric allergy specialist at Penn State Children's Hospital in Derry Township, Dauphin County, says the best way parents can help their kids spot the difference between allergies and a common cold is with the eyes. Watery and itchy eyes, she says, tend to be the biggest telltale sign of allergies.
"A typical cold starts off with a scratchy throat, then over the next day or two, more congestion and coughing, and over the next several days, more runny nose and the cough lingers for a week or two," Dr. Horowitz said. "Allergies are more persistant, day to day, so that may be one way to tell."
Dr. Horowitz adds these symptoms can start showing up in children as young as two and a half years old to three years old. They need to experience all four seasons a few times, she says. However, children likely won't start feeling discomfort, if they do at all, until they are five or six years old.
The good news is kids can take the same allergy medication as adults. Popular brands like Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin all offer their medicine in liquid form for children.
Parents who think their child is experiencing bad seasonal allergies should first seek the opinion of their primary family physician or pediatrician. If a child continues to be in extreme discomfort, Dr. Horowitz says then parents should seek out the help of a specialized allergist.