Pollen allergies, also known as hay fever, can make it difficult for affected children to play outdoors. Here are four things parents need to know about this distressing allergy.

What are the symptoms of this condition?

If your child suffers from pollen allergies, they will experience cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, or sneezing. Their eyes may be red and watery, and they may complain that the inside of their mouth or inside of their nose is itchy. You may also notice that they have dark bags under their eyes; doctors call these bags "allergic shiners."

These symptoms tend to get worse when pollen counts are elevated. Tree pollen tends to be highest in the early spring, while grass pollen is highest in the summer and ragweed pollen is highest in the fall. If your child is allergic to multiple types of pollen, they may suffer from symptoms for much of the year.

Are pollen allergies common?

Pollen allergies are very common. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 9% of children reported hay fever symptoms in 2012. Caucasian children are more likely to be affected: in 2010, 10% of white children suffered from hay fever, while only 7% of African-American children did.

Pollen allergies are less common among adults than in children. In the United States, 7.8% of the general adult population suffers from hay fever. This indicates that some children may grow out of the allergy.

How can parents help?

You can help your child by reducing their exposure to pollen. On dry, windy days, try to keep them indoors as much as possible. The best time for them to play outside is just after a rainstorm, as the rain washes the pollen out of the air.

You should also take steps to reduce the amount of pollen inside your house. It's important to keep your windows closed on days with high pollen counts; use your air conditioner, not the breeze, to keep your house cool. You should also invest in a HEPA filter for your child's bedroom. Another way to control pollen is to clean your floors every day with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

How can pediatricians help?

It's very hard to completely avoid pollen, so your child will still experience symptoms. To control symptoms, your child's pediatrician may give them a prescription for an antihistamine. Antihistamines don't cure allergies, but they help to control the unpleasant symptoms, like runny noses.

If you think your child is allergic to pollen, take them to a pediatrician right away.