It is definitely allergy season around the country. The weird weather this year has made all things blooming start early, with sky-high pollen counts. Some areas have had a few recent cold days, but warmer temperatures are starting again. While the cherry blossoms really suffered, the oak, elm, mulberry and ash trees are all just starting to spread their pollens and causing a lot of runny noses, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

If you know that your child is a spring allergy sufferer or if your child seems to be developing allergy symptoms (which often occurs after the age of 2), there are many products now available over the counter.

The mainstay of allergy treatment is the use of nasal steroids, which actually act as a preventative. They are used on a daily basis during allergy season. There are many different nasal steroid sprays available, including Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex and Rhinocort.

Both Flonase and Nasacort now have a children’s brand and may be used in children as young as 2 years old. While the word “steroid” scares many parents, these steroids are not the “bad” ones associated with bodybuilding. The steroid is sprayed directly into the nasal lining and therefore very little is absorbed systemically, so there are few side effects. Some children do not like sprays and “water up their nose”, but each brand is a bit different in how it is delivered, so you might switch around and see which brand is easiest to use.

Many of the allergy symptoms that occur, including the runny nose and watery eyes, are related to the allergic cascade and histamines that the body produces in response to exposure to the pollen. So antihistamines are also a mainstay of treatment. Again, many of the previous prescription antihistamines are now all available over the counter. This class of drugs includes second-generation, non-sedating antihistamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin, and now the newest, Xyzal.

First-generation antihistamines are more likely to cause drowsiness and sedation, and the best known of these is Benadryl (diphenhydramine). For those with severe allergy symptoms I sometimes use a non-sedating antihistamine in the morning followed by Benadryl at bedtime.

For those children who have significant allergies, particularly year round, and who respond well to typical treatment with nose sprays and antihistamines, it may be time to see a pediatric allergist. I recently sent one young boy for allergy testing. When I saw him for follow-up he told me he had gone to the “Pokemon” doctor, because he had received lots of pokes on his back! The testing is usually well tolerated and not painful.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Visit www.kidsdr.com.