Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Cough - Allergic


  • Cough caused by pollens or other allergic substances

Call or Return If

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing occurs
  • Wheezing occurs
  • Coughing is not better in 2 days after starting allergy medicine
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Lots of coughing
  • The cough can be dry (no mucus) or wet (coughing up mucus)
  • Mucus often is sticky and causes repeated throat clearing
  • A coughing fit or spell is over 5 minutes of nonstop coughing
  • Runny nose and watery eyes may also be present
  • Allergic symptoms often have a sudden onset


  • Reaction to an inhaled substance (called an allergen). Most often this is a pollen.
  • Grass, trees, weeds and molds are the most common pollens.
  • Allergens can also be from cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and other animals.
  • Dust, chemicals, or pollutants can also cause a cough. This is from irritation of the airway, not an allergic reaction.

Prevention - How to Reduce the Pollen Your Child Breathes

  • Pollen is carried in the air.
  • Keep windows closed in the home, at least in your child's bedroom.
  • Keep windows closed in car. Turn the air conditioner on recirculate.
  • Avoid window fans or attic fans. They pull in pollen.
  • Try to stay indoors on windy days. Reason: The pollen count is much higher when it's dry and windy.
  • Avoid playing with the outdoor dog. Reason: Pollen collects in the fur.
  • Pollen Count. You can get your daily pollen count from www.pollen.com. Just type in your zip code.

After Care Advice

  • Pollen allergies are very common. They occur in about 15% of children.
  • A cough is a common symptom of allergies.
  • Symptoms can be controlled by giving allergy medicines. Use either short-acting (Benadryl) or long-acting (Zyrtec).
  • Since pollen allergies recur each year, learn to control the symptoms.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Allergy Medicines Short-Acting:
  • Allergy medicines are called antihistamines.
  • They help control all allergic symptoms.
  • Benadryl or Chlorpheniramine (CTM) products are helpful. No prescription is needed. They need to be given every 6 to 8 hours.
  • The key to control is to give allergy meds every day during pollen season.
  • Regular cough medicines are not helpful for allergic coughs.
Allergy Medicines Long-Acting:
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec) and Loratadine (Claritin) are long-acting allergy medicines. No prescription is needed.
  • Advantage: Causes less sedation than older allergy meds such as Benadryl or CTM. They are long-acting and last up to 24 hours.
  • AGE 2- 5 years old, give 2.5 mg (2.5 ml or 1/2 teaspoon) of liquid syrup. Use once daily in the morning.
  • AGE 6-11 years old, give 5 mg chewable tablet once daily in morning.
  • AGE 12 years and older, give 10 mg tablet once daily in morning.
  • Downside: Doesn't control allergy symptoms as well as older allergy medicines. Also, sometimes will have breakthrough symptoms before 24 hours. If that happens, you can give a single dose of Benadryl or CTM.
  • Cost: Ask the pharmacist for a store brand. Reason: Costs less than the brand names.
Homemade Cough Medicine:
  • Goal: Decrease the irritation or tickle in the throat that causes a dry cough. These treatments can be used along with the allergy medicines.
  • AGE 1 year and older: Use HONEY ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-5 ml) as needed. It works as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If you don't have any honey, you can use corn syrup.
  • AGE 6 years and older: Use COUGH DROPS to decrease the tickle in the throat. If you don't have any, you can use hard candy.
Coughing Fits or Spells:
  • Give warm clear fluids to drink. Examples are apple juice and lemonade.
  • Give an extra dose of Benadryl or CTM to stop the breakthrough symptoms.
Avoid Tobacco Smoke:
  • Tobacco smoke makes coughs much worse.
Wash Pollen Off Body:
  • Remove pollen from the hair and skin with shampoo and a shower. This is really important before bedtime.
What to Expect:
  • Coughing from an allergic substance that can be avoided should go away in hours. Examples are a reaction to pets, a barn, raking leaves or air pollution.
  • Coughing during pollen season can last 4-8 weeks. It may return whenever you don't give the allergy medicine. It can flare-up whenever the pollen count goes high.
Return to School:
  • Your child does not need to miss any school for allergies.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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