Kids and allergy medicine: It’s complicated

April 19, 2017 Mike Francis

When your kid is suffering through the spring with a runny nose and red eyes, it’s tempting to reach for a medication to relieve his or her symptoms. The trouble is, many of these medicines aren’t designed for children or don’t specifically address their symptoms.

A study from the University of Michigan found that well-meaning parents sometimes:

  • Gave their children allergy medicines intended for adults
  • Offered their children medicine they had in the house
  • Didn’t always check the expiration dates for the medicines they gave
  • Sought advice physicians or pharmacists, but also from friends and relatives

The details emerge from a national poll of parents of kids ages 6 to 12.

“Parents often face an overwhelming selection of allergy medicine without clear guidelines on how to choose the right one for their child,” said poll official and pediatrician Gary Freed, M.D. “Some parents may be picking allergy medication based on their interpretation of different advice they’ve heard, which may not always be accurate.”

Why it matters

Freed didn’t suggest that parents are endangering their children by their choice of allergy medicines. But he pointed out that outdated medicines can lose some of their effectiveness. He also noted that many gave their children doses intended for adults, or guessed at partial doses. The wrong dosage, he said, can cause severe side effects in children.

Freed’s advice:

  • Parents should read the ingredients on the box, especially trying to match their children’s symptoms with the ingredients, e.g., antihistamines for red eyes and a runny nose, and decongestants for a stuffy nose.
  • Parents who are unsure about which medicines are best for their children’s allergies should ask for advice from a health care provider.

Allergies, hay fever and children

Seasonal allergies and hay fever occur when natural particles, such as pollen, cause an overreaction in a person’s immune system. Symptoms, which include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, can be mild to life-threatening.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says allergies of all kinds are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, costing more than $18 million a year. More than 50 million Americans a year suffer from allergies.

Among those most affected are children and teens, the agency says. About 6.1 million young people under 18 reported hay fever in the past 12 months; another 7.4 million reported respiratory allergies.

You might be interested in our recent article, “In allergy season, flush, don’t sneeze.

If you or someone in your family is suffering through allergies this season, use our directory to find a Providence health care provider near you.

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