Optimal management of nasal congestion caused by allergic rhinitis in children: safety and efficacy of medical treatments

Paediatr Drugs. 2008;10(3):151-62. doi: 10.2165/00148581-200810030-00004.


Nasal congestion is such a frequent and multifactorial occurrence in young children that parents and medical caregivers often overlook the need for medical intervention. However, children with congestion can suffer quality-of-life detriments resulting from sleep disturbance, learning impairment, and fatigue. Congestion also impairs the normal nasal breathing that is physiologically important for the efficient cleaning and conditioning of inspired air. Further, the most common cause of congestion, allergic rhinitis, is considered a potential risk factor for asthma. Published guidelines on the treatment of allergic rhinitis agree that management strategies in children should follow the same principles as in adults, while recognizing the need for dosage adjustments and being aware of unique safety issues. Intranasal corticosteroids, with robust effects in reducing congestion and good tolerability, remain a treatment of choice. Despite lingering concerns about the potential for growth suppression with these drugs, clinical evidence suggests a very low risk at prescribed dosages, especially with compounds that have a low systemic bioavailability. Oral antihistamines are commonly cited as first-line options for allergic rhinitis, although their effect on nasal congestion is relatively modest. First-generation antihistamines should not be administered to children because of their sedative properties, which can worsen learning problems associated with allergic rhinitis. Second-generation oral antihistamines are preferred, although this class is not completely devoid of adverse effects. Other treatments, such as a nasal antihistamine, decongestants, and immunotherapy, present varying levels of safety and tolerability issues in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Histamine Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Histamine Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Nasal Decongestants / administration & dosage
  • Nasal Decongestants / adverse effects
  • Nasal Decongestants / therapeutic use*
  • Nasal Obstruction / drug therapy*
  • Nasal Obstruction / etiology*
  • Nasal Obstruction / therapy
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / complications*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / drug therapy*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / therapy


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Leukotriene Antagonists
  • Nasal Decongestants