Allergic Rhinitis in Children: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

What Is Allergic Rhinitis in Children?

Allergic rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal passages triggered by exposure to small airborne particles called allergens. Allergens include mould, pollen, dust, animal hair or fur, insect bites, cigarette smoke, perfume, and car exhaust.

The body produces allergic antibodies, Immunoglobulin E (IgE) as a defence mechanism in response to allergens. This immune reaction leads to the release of chemicals such as histamine in the body, resulting in the symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis.

Although allergic rhinitis can occur at any age, most people first experience symptoms when they are children or young adults.

There are 2 types of allergic rhinitis:

  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis
    • Occurs during specific seasons.
    • Allergens include pollen from trees, weeds, and grass.
  • Perennial allergic rhinitis
    • Occurs year-round.
    • Allergens include dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, moulds, or fungi.

What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis in Children?

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis differ from individual to individual. While the term "rhinitis" specifically pertains to nasal symptoms, many children also experience symptoms affecting the eyes, throat, and ears. Additionally, their sleep may be disturbed.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis in children may include the following:

  • Runny nose with watery, thin, and clear mucus.
  • Sneezing or blocked nose.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Headache.
  • Itchy nose, throat, eyes, and ears.
  • Postnasal drip (feeling of mucus trickling down the back of the throat).

Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs throughout the year and is characterised by postnasal drip, persistent nasal congestion, and difficulty sleeping.

What Are the Risk Factors of Allergic Rhinitis in Children?

Children who present with other allergic conditions, such as eczema, food allergy, and asthma, have an increased likelihood of experiencing allergic rhinitis.

Approximately 80% of children diagnosed with asthma concurrently experience allergic rhinitis. Children whose parents have allergies are also more susceptible to developing allergies.

How Is Allergic Rhinitis in Children Diagnosed?

A comprehensive medical history and physical examination will be conducted by a doctor to diagnose allergic rhinitis in children. In some cases, an allergy test, such as a skin prick test, may be required if the diagnosis is not apparent.

How Is Allergic Rhinitis in Children Treated?

The management of allergic rhinitis involves a dual strategy of minimising exposure to allergens and other triggers coupled with medications. This combined approach is generally effective in controlling symptoms for most children.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis may include the following:

Identifying and avoiding allergens

Allergens can be identified by doing an allergy test. Avoiding exposure to certain allergens can be relatively simple for some while more challenging for others.

While it may be difficult to avoid exposure to pollens altogether, trying the following tips might make a difference:

  • If your child is sensitive to specific weeds or trees outside the bedroom window, consider removing them and replacing them with low-allergen plants.
  • Keep windows closed both at home and especially when in the car. If feasible, use recirculating air conditioning in the car.

Allergic reactions to pets are not typically caused by their fur but by exposure to their dead skin, saliva, and urine. To minimise exposure, try the following:

  • Wash hands immediately after petting any animal.
  • Keep pets outdoors as much as possible; if pets must be inside, avoid allowing them into bedrooms.
  • Bathe pets at least once every two weeks.
  • Groom dogs outside to reduce indoor allergens.
  • Launder bedding and soft furnishings if the pet has been in contact with them.

Moulds thrive in damp, musty conditions, and to prevent their growth, consider the following measures:

  • Keep your home dry and well-ventilated.
  • When cooking or using the bath/shower, keep internal doors closed to prevent the spread of moist air.
  • Utilise extractor fans to improve ventilation.
  • Refrain from drying clothes indoors or packing clothes and bedding too tightly in cupboards.
  • Address dampness and condensation at home promptly.


  • Oral antihistamine (allergy medication)
  • Nasal sprays
    • Deliver antihistamines or steroids directly to the nasal passages.
    • It should be only used for a short duration.
    • Steroid nasal sprays are usually not administered to children under two.
  • Eye drops
  • Immunotherapy
    • This may be prescribed for children with severe forms of allergic rhinitis who do not respond to other treatment options.
    • They may also be recommended for children with allergies and difficult-to-control asthma.

Allergic rhinitis is uncommon in children under 2 because they have limited exposure to environmental allergens. If a child exhibits symptoms such as a persistent runny nose, it is advisable to consult a doctor to explore potential alternative causes.

Make an Appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Let us make sure your little ones are breathing effortlessly. If you have noticed sneezes or itchy eyes, it might be time to consult your child's doctor. Early intervention and proper management can significantly improve symptoms and the child's overall well-being.

A dedicated and expert team of paediatricians at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance. If you notice concerning signs of eczema in your baby, get in touch with us to book an appointment today for a check-up.

Pantai Hospitals have been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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