It seems unfair that kids can get seasonal allergies—after all, they’re still so new to Earth!—and it’s painful to see them with reddened eyes and congested noses. 

But seasonal allergies in kids can set in around age 3 to 5, or before 10 in most cases, says Sarah Rahal, MD, a double board-certified pediatric neurologist with expertise in environmental and functional medicine and founder of ARMRA. While some kids may outgrow them before long, for others, allergies may peak in the teen years before subsiding—or they may stick around throughout adulthood.

Allergies are a result of your immune system overreacting to a certain substance. “Often, there is a clear environmental trigger, plus a seasonality that depends on what pollen(s) the child is allergic to [like trees, grasses or weeds], which region of the country they live in, and what time of year the pollen counts are highest. But other inhaled allergens can also be to blame, like pet dander, molds or dust mites,” Dr. Rahal notes. 

Related: One way to prevent kids from getting sick? Try cow colostrum

When any type of allergen is inhaled, it kicks off an inflammatory reaction, releasing histamine and antibodies in the bloodstream to fend off what the body sees as a foreign invader. That can cause the following symptoms: Red, itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion and runny nose and sneezing. Allergies rarely come with a fever, which is one way to distinguish them from other illnesses, like a cold, flu or Covid

“In very young children, you may notice mouth breathing, irritability and fatigue, dark undereye circles, and frequent rubbing of the eyelids and nose,” adds Dr. Rahal. 

Thankfully, there are several natural remedies for seasonal allergies that can help kids fight off symptoms and get through the stuffy season with as few sniffles as possible. 

Treat the root cause

Over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays, can help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies. But know that allergy meds don’t get to the root cause of the issue, which is an underlying immune system hyperactivation, says Dr. Rahal. “They only suppress symptoms temporarily and have knock-on effects interfering with other important biological pathways.” 

Instead, she recommends bovine colostrum, which is the first milk produced by cows for 48 hours after delivery. “Colostrum is a native source of over 200 exclusive peptides, antibodies, growth factors and immune supportive bioactives that act as a blueprint for optimal immune system functioning,” she notes. “It builds the body's immune barriers, including along the nose, sinuses, and lungs, to proactively guard against irritants that can trigger inflammation, as in allergies.”

Colostrum is best taken in a daily dose through allergy season (which typically runs February through September), and is safe for kids over the age of 1 who don’t have a dairy allergy or sensitivity. To see if colostrum is right for your little one, check in with your child’s pediatrician. 

Test for seasonal allergies in kids—and avoid triggers

Allergy tests can help distinguish which specific environmental allergens your child may be allergic to, which is useful to know when trying to prevent exposure.

Then, the name of the game is avoidance. If your child is allergic to a certain type of pollen, keep an eye on pollen counts in your area, and on high-pollen days, be sure to keep windows closed or shift outdoor play to just the evening hours (pollen counts tend to subside somewhat around dinner time).

If your little one is over 2, try having them wear sunglasses and/or a face mask during outside time to create a pollen shield and block particles from getting into their eyes and nose.

Related: The best KN95s for kids

Try a cold compress

For itchy eyes, applying a cold compress in the form of a cold, damp washcloth over closed eyes can help relieve irritation. 

Create a pollen-free bedroom

Similarly, turn their bedroom into a pollen- or pet dander-free zone by keeping windows closed and running a HEPA filter during the day to help filter out any environmental allergens. If your little one is congested, using a humidifier at night makes for easier breathing. A bath before bedtime can also work to remove any pollen particles before hitting the hay.

Seek out foods with quercetin

As a flavonoid (a type of phytonutrient), quercetin has been found to suppresses the histamine response in lab studies and may be used to relieve allergy symptoms. Quercetin is found in large quantities in onions, apples, berries and grapes, so aim to stock your kid’s plate with these anti-inflammatory additions. 

Look to saline for quick relief

If your kiddo will let you, a saline nasal spray can help irrigate their nasal passages and flush out congestion, but it’s often a hard-won battle with the under-6 set. Look for a version that’s solely saline and sprays in a fine mist, which may be less startling. 

Power up with propolis

A type of resin produced by honeybees, propolis has also been shown to play a role in histamine inhibition, making it potentially therapeutic against seasonal allergies. In the form of a sweet throat spray or blended with honey, it’s easy for kids (over the age of 1) to take.

Watch out for risk factors

Seasonal allergies and asthma often occur together. If your child has asthma, allergies could make their asthma worse. Having asthma is a risk factor for more severe symptoms from seasonal allergies. “Both conditions are inflammatory in nature—and the hyperactive immune response triggered by seasonal allergies can induce inflammation in the airways that produce the symptoms we describe as asthma,” says Dr. Rahal. 

If your child’s allergy symptoms are moderate to severe, talk to your child’s pediatrician about whether prescription medication is warranted. 

Featured expert

Sarah Rahal, MD, is a double board-certified adult and pediatric neurologist and headache medicine specialist, with additional training in functional and environmental medicine. Dr. Rahal is the founder of ARMRA, a bioscience company that innovates natural bio-actives for gut and immune health.