As someone who lives in Georgia, instead of getting snow and being able to say, “Oh, it snowed overnight,” we typically comment on how it “pollened” overnight during the months of March through September. We have so many trees, lush gardens, and flowers here, that they tend to produce a lot of pollen and allergens. I have had seasonal allergies as long as I can remember, but does that mean my unborn child will have them, too? Can babies get seasonal allergies? Is he doomed since he will be born in May — peak allergy and pollen time? I know my husband (who is from Colorado) never had allergies until he moved here, and now he is as affected as I am. How soon will I know whether or not our son has the curse?
Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says in an email interview with Romper that it’s difficult for babies to have seasonal allergies because they haven’t had exposure to the seasons yet. “This usually takes about two years, so we don’t see many seasonal allergies until age 2 or more (they can definitely have allergies to foods and other environmental things before that)." Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, agrees, and adds, “Seasonal allergies usually first start developing between 3 to 5 years old. Note, seasonal allergies take years to develop — different than food allergies — which can develop within the first few months of life.”
Can your baby become immune to certain allergens they’re exposed to while in the womb? Ganjian says there have been some studies showing that it could prevent development of certain allergies later in life. “For example, babies born on farms or exposed to animals have lower chances of developing allergies and babies who are exposed to sheepskin blankets/rugs early on life have been shown to have lower rates of asthma,” he tells Romper. However, Ganjian notes, “Before running to buy sheepskin, we need more studies to confirm the previous research.” Posner adds, “They have found in some studies of moms who eat a lot of peanut butter or peanuts during their pregnancy that kids are less likely to have a peanut allergy. I assume that could be true of other allergens, just not as well studied.”
How do you know the difference between a cold and seasonal allergies? Ganjian says he gets asked this question quite a bit. “If your child has a fever, nasal congestion resolves within two to three weeks, or they were exposed to someone who is sick, then most likely your child has a cold,” he explains. Posner adds, “Typically with allergies, [your child] will be itchy in their nose or eyes as well, so there is a lot of rubbing. We sometimes will try an allergy medicine and if it helps, we assume it is allergies.” She says it can be hard to tell the difference, “if a baby is in day care or exposed to other children" since they often have multiple colds back to back and a runny nose is pretty consistent. For older children, Posner recommends using over-the-counter medications like Claritin or Zyrtec. “Benadryl also works, but it makes them sleepier and is short acting,” she adds.
Once they’re of age and you’re sure it’s seasonal allergies and not a cold, treating a child for seasonal allergies can be done in a number of ways, Ganjian says. “Depending on the child, we might order allergy testing, recommend the removal of dust from the house (wash the carpets, dolls, curtains, blinds, and comforters on a weekly basis)." He adds they may also recommend changing the air filter and using one with a higher rating, which means it filters even tiny allergens. “Close the window at night while sleeping, since pollen levels are highest overnight, remove insects from the house, and remove mold” are other recommendations. Otherwise, “seasonal allergies are treated with nasal saline rinses and medications such as Cetirizine.”
While you don’t have to worry about your baby having seasonal allergies until they’re at least 2 years old and have experienced all the seasons, do be mindful of any signs of an allergic reaction to other environmental triggers, including food. Otherwise, they probably have a cold, and can be treated effectively by your pediatrician.
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