Occular Allergies in Kids
Ocular allergies are a common manifestation of allergy in kids — especially when spring allergy season arrives.
Dealing with uncomfortable allergy symptoms is never fun, but kids’ allergies can be particularly tough to handle, as watching your little ones suffer from itchy, red, inflamed eyes often feels just as uncomfortable as the allergies themselves.
If your child suffers from eye allergies, you can treat the cause of the allergies as well as manage the symptoms.
Find out how to fix kids’ eye allergies by addressing the cause of ocular allergies and how to ease itchy, watery and red eyes along the way.
Kids’ eye allergy symptoms are known to be most intense during the spring pollen season, though kids allergic to ragweed may experience symptoms in the late summer and early autumn.
If your child suffers from allergies, self-diagnosis isn’t recommended. Eye allergies are often mistaken for eye infections (which are treated entirely differently).
Eye allergies are caused by contact with allergens, such as pollen, ragweed, mold and more that trigger symptoms.
These symptoms may arise whenever your child comes into contact with triggering allergens.
Depending on what your child is allergic to, symptoms may arise seasonally or year-round. Common seasonal ocular allergens may include pollen and grasses. Year-round allergens may include animals or pests (such as insects and mice), dust mites or mold.
Airborne allergens, such as pollen and mold, can get blown into your child’s eyes; or, your child may come into contact with allergens and touch their face or eyes, transferring the allergens.
Other ocular allergies may include eyelid dermatitis, which is caused by allergens affecting the skin of the eyelids leading to a rash.
If your child is rubbing their eyes or suffering from symptoms, such as redness, itching, inflammation or more, it could be allergies — or it could be an eye infection.
Since self-diagnosis is difficult (and not recommended), you should make an appointment with a medical professional to determine if the cause of symptoms is an allergic reaction or an infection.
Clinicians may treat the infection with a combination of antibiotics or ointments. Or, you may need to treat symptoms with gentle cleaning and warm compresses.
Ocular allergies can range from mild to severe (dramatic eyes that may become swollen shut). It’s best to address allergies before symptoms become severe.
The first step to treating allergies is to see an allergy specialist who can assess your child’s clinical history and order or perform allergy testing. There are two main types of allergy tests are available, including skin scratch and blood tests.
Skin scratch tests may be performed by a medical professional at a clinical office. Aqueous allergens are gently applied to the skin and monitored over the next 15 minutes for a clinical reaction such as redness, swelling and itching.
Blood tests may include a blood draw (in a clinical lab, such as Quest or LabCorp, or they may be performed by a concierge clinician at home) or via a finger prick (at home).
Curex offers two types of at-home testing for kids.
Concierge testing, where a phlebotomist comes to your home and performs a blood draw, tests for 25 (or more) of the most common indoor and outdoor allergens. Results are available in five days.
This type of testing is recommended by Curex clinicians for children, as it is done quickly and relatively painlessly. It’s also done at home — a familiar, comforting place for children. Lastly, the testing uses the same technology used at major hospitals, giving precise results to ensure you can identify and treat the source of your child’s ocular allergies.
Curex also offers an at-home self-testing kit. Simply order the kit, collect the blood sample using the provided lancet and mail the sample to the lab. Results are available within two weeks.
There are traditionally three ways to treat kids’ eye allergies: avoidance, medication and immunotherapy.
Avoidance simply means avoiding the triggering allergens as much as possible. With kids, this may mean skipping recess, RSVPing “no” to outdoor birthday parties and wearing eye protection. Avoidance alone is unlikely to do the trick!
Still, avoiding allergens as much as possible is better than no avoidance at all (though, we don’t generally consider long-term avoidance a permanent solution).
Using a combination of avoidance tactics with allergy medication and allergy immunotherapy can offer the best protection against ocular allergy symptoms — without sealing off your kids from the rest of the world.
One effective way to manage kids’ eye allergy symptoms is to wear eye protection.
Eye allergy symptoms are often more severe during spring allergy season because tree and grass pollens are airborne and can blow into your eyes, nose and mouth. Little ones should only need to wear eye protection during these months or months when symptoms are most severe.
Sunglasses should cover as much of the eye area as possible and ideally wrap around the side of the eyes to prevent pollen from blowing in from the side. Obviously, sunglasses pull double-duty as they also offer eye protection from the sun as well.
If sunglasses just aren’t cutting it, you may want to try goggles, which create a seal between pollen and your child’s eyes.
If your child can’t stand the feeling of goggles or sunglasses, they might not wear them, and if eye allergy symptoms are severe, you may want to simply avoid situations where your child will be outdoors for the duration of allergy season — particularly at recess.
While severe allergy season may only last up to a few weeks, missing recess can affect your child’s quality of life at school (we have to admit that it’s a bit heartbreaking to ask kids to miss time playing with their peers).
Since many schools are still implementing social distancing practices, the outdoors is one of the few times kids may have to interact with their friends.
That’s why coupling allergy avoidance techniques with other treatment options, such as medication, hygiene practices and allergy immunotherapy can help mitigate your kids’ allergy symptoms without keeping them from outdoor activities.
Allergy medication has also been shown to be effective at managing allergy symptoms.
Antihistamines (oral tablets, eye drops and nasal sprays), nasal sprays and saline drops can help manage ocular allergy symptoms when used as directed. Just make sure to use over-the-counter medications that are approved for children.
Most oral antihistamines come in chewable tablets and syrups for children two and older. Many over-the-counter intranasal steroid sprays are also approved for children ages two years and older.
Curex offers an allergy control plan that includes a full evaluation with a clinical expert and access to low prescription prices and delivery starting at only $20 a month. Get treated for allergy, asthma and eczema symptoms and talk or text with your clinician as needed.
It’s best to start treatments a few weeks before the start of allergy season so that you have a layer of protection in place before pollen hits.
Good hygiene practices can also help keep uncomfortable allergy symptoms under control.
Pollen is a sticky airborne substance that can affix to your clothes, skin and hair. When pollen counts are high, you might notice a thin green, white or yellow film on outdoor surfaces.
Yet, not all pollen spores are so visible. It’s possible to pick up pollen when you’re outdoors and not even know it. And when you head inside? You can track pollen into your home, where it can get deposited on surfaces (especially clinging to soft surfaces).
Before entering your home, you may want to remove clothing that’s been exposed to the outdoors. Shower or bathe before bed to ensure you don’t transfer pollen from your hair onto your pillow.
Gently wipe away allergens from your child’s eyes and eyelids at the end of the day with baby wipes and a saline eye rinse.
Allergy medication and avoidance don’t treat the cause of allergies; they only manage the symptoms of allergies. Antihistamines block the activity of the allergic chemical mediator histamine, and nasal steroids target inflammation.
But what if you could reduce the body’s reactivity to allergens and treat the cause of allergies and not merely the symptoms?
Allergy immunotherapy has been proven effective at doing just this. It’s available in shots and under-the-tongue formulas that are safe for children, some are approved in children as young as five.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (more commonly known as allergy shots) introduces small amounts of allergens to the body, helping the immune system to stop seeing these allergens as a threat.
Shots are usually administered weekly during the build-up phase and monthly during the maintenance phase. Patients are usually required to remain for observation for sides effects which can be mild or more severe like anaphylaxis for up to 30 minutes after their appointment.
While allergy shots have been shown to be effective at preventing allergy symptoms in children as young as five, not all children (or parents for that matter) are comfortable getting shots once a week.
Under-the-tongue immunotherapy (also called sublingual immunotherapy) has been shown to improve significantly allergy symptoms due to seasonal and year-round allergens.
While more common in Europe (especially the UK and France) for the past few decades, this type of allergy immunotherapy is becoming increasingly more popular in the U.S. for the past few years.
The chance of anaphylaxis is rarer than with allergy shots, so patients may self-administer doses at home each day (usually without doctor supervision).
Curex’s clinicians treat children as young as six.
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