Outdoor allergens, like tree and grass pollen, spike in spring leading to increased allergy reactions. Identifying symptoms is the first step to properly diagnosing and treating seasonal allergies in children. While symptoms typically include sneezing, itchy watery eyes and nasal congestion, kids can exhibit other less common allergy symptoms that parents should watch for.

Allergic Shiners

Dark circles under the eye, known as "allergic shiners" are an indicator of allergies.

While dark circles are commonly associated with getting too little sleep, for kids with allergies, "allergic shiners" are a marker of allergic sensitivity. In fact, "allergic shiners" are known to get darker as the severity of allergies increase and can appear under the eyes or on the eyelids in color similar to a bruise.

The Allergic Salute/Nasal Crease

Many kids suffering from allergies develop the habit of wiping or rubbing their nose in an upwards manner which is known as the "allergic salute." Over time the "allergic salute" can lead to an observable crease across the nose. The "allergic salute" temporarily makes kids with allergies feel better by temporarily opening the nasal airway.

Rabbit Nose or Nasal Aerobics

"Rabbit nose" is the habit of twitching or wriggling of the nose like a rabbit as a way to get relief of the itch and/or to avoid sneezing.  This habit may even manifest as a movement unique to the individual (or "nasal aerobics") which relieves the "itch."  While "rabbit nose" and "nasal aerobics" can develop at any age, this symptom is particularly common with children.

Sleep, Cognition, & Orthodontics

Mouth breathing and difficulty sleeping less commonly recognized seasonal allergy symptoms related to nasal congestion.  Loss of attention, poor concentration, and difficulty following direction may all also be markers of underlying allergy due to trouble sleeping because of congestion, and an adverse effect of over-the-counter sedating antihistamines.

Chronic untreated mouth breathing in children can over time lead to orthodontic problems, such as arching of the roof of the mouth or malformed teeth alignment.

Oral Allergy Syndrome

Certain fruits and vegetables are related to seasonal pollens by "shared allergic proteins." This is known as "cross-reactivity."  OAS is a less commonly known type of food allergy which can occur when a child is allergic to a pollen and eats a related food.  For example, if a child is allergic to Birch tree pollen (a significant allergen in Philadelphia and South Jersey air right now) eats an apple or celery, it is possible the child may quickly experience a range of allergic mouth, throat, nose, eye and ear symptoms. In rare cases severe symptoms of wheezing, vomiting, hives, and even anaphylaxis can also occur.

Other less commonly reported complaints include:

  • Reactions to contact lenses.
  • Skin rashes or itchiness. Reactions to grass allergies for instance can occur on the legs and arms after playing outside.
  • Ear "popping", "cracking" or a sensation of feeling "underwater," itching of the ear canal.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • Social embarrassment from excessive sneezing, nose mucus and needing to loudly clear the throat.
  • Nose bleeds.

Pollen Counts

The daily pollen count can help prepare allergy sufferers for the day ahead. As allergy symptoms often spike with pollen, knowing the day's counts can help parents decide when to  kids indoors or when to adjust allergy medication in order to provide relief when conditions are bad and use less medication every time else.

Since 1986, board-certified Allergist at The Asthma Center, Don Dvorin, MD, has provided the official pollen, mold spore, and ragweed counts for the Philadelphia metro area and South Jersey as certified by the National Allergy Bureau.

Seeing an Allergist

Many parents find relief for their kids in typical treatment options like over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays, though they do not work for every kid's symptoms. Drowsiness is a common side-effect which may be unacceptable for students or kids playing sports. An allergist can determine the exact allergens kids react to and, based on these results, formulate customized treatment plans. It's best for parents to discuss treatment options, including allergy shots, with a board-certified allergist.