Finding the right allergy medication for your child
As parents, it’s hard to watch children suffer from anything. Our first instinct is to protect them from every skinned knee and scrape. Few things are more miserable than allergies, especially bad ones. There seems to be no end to the wide range of things it is possible to be allergic to, and that variety is only matched by the variety of medications available to treat allergy symptoms. In all of that, though, navigating the madness can be quite difficult. Knowing what your child needs is half the battle.
Types of allergy medication
There are a few different basic types of allergy medication. Regardless of how it gets into the body, the main difference is how the active ingredient works within the body. The main ones are corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants. Prevention is usually best–that is, identification and removal of whatever your child is allergic to, but that is not always possible. Medication, then, becomes the second choice.
What are corticosteroids?
Corticosteroids, in asthma patients, are used to decrease swelling in the lungs. They are taken primarily in 2 ways: either by inhaler or in tablet form. The tablet form is less likely to give side effects than the inhaler. They can also be found in skin creams or eye drops, and are usually only available by prescription.
While corticosteroids prevent the release of all symptom-causing chemicals during an allergic reaction, antihistamines only block one: histamine. They come in oral, nasal spray, and eye drop forms. Within each type of antihistamine, there are several different brand names with different side effects. Older brands, like Benadryl, are more likely to cause drowsiness. Second-generation medications, like Claritin and Zyrtec, have been used in very young children with minimal side effects.
What are decongestants?
Decongestants do not block any chemicals. Instead, they unblock congested noses and sinus cavities. They are often taken orally or as a nasal spray, though eye drop decongestants are available over the counter. Pay close attention to the dosage on the package directions, as taking too much decongestant can cause serious side effects. They are very effective as a temporary measure, but long-term usage has serious drawbacks, particularly for children.
It all depends on what approach you and your health care provider want to take to manage your child’s allergies. If your child has mild allergic rhinitis, then a decongestant might be best. On the other hand, for more serious reactions, it might be better to block the histamine that the body produces, or to use a steroid. Another approach that has been effective is allergy shots. For the most serious reactions, an epi-pen might be prescribed.
Whatever treatment you pick should fit your child’s symptoms, needs, and medical history. A physician or allergist (doctor who specializes in allergies and asthma) will be the best ones to help decide which medications are right for your child and lay out a treatment plan. Every child is different, and each allergy medication interacts differently with the body and other medications. Schedule an appointment today.
Paul Chai is a health & wellness enthusiastist writer with interests around allergy medication and treatments.