Hay fever and children

Hay fever doesn't usually affect children until they're about seven, and older children and teenagers are more susceptible to the allergy than adults.

According to Pierre Dugué, consultant allergist at Guy’s Hospital in London, if you think your child may have hay fever, make an appointment with your GP to get a diagnosis.

“It’s important to know if it's hay fever, as it could be a non-pollen allergy such as dust mite or pet fur," says Dugué.

Dugué says hay fever has clear seasonal symptoms, which occur every year at the same time. “The strict diagnosis of hay fever is allergy to grass pollen. But your child could also be allergic to tree pollen, which usually comes at the end of spring, before grass pollen is produced.

“Allergy to tree pollen usually means allergy to birch, hazel or elder trees, which are in the same family."

Signs of hay fever in children

Look out for symptoms from March to October.

Sometimes hay fever can be confused with a virus. The way to tell the difference is by how long the symptoms last. If it's a virus, they should only last for a week or two. Viruses rarely last for weeks and weeks. If your child has a constant runny nose and is sneezing every day for part of the year but not in the winter, it's a sign that they may be allergic to something. 

Diagnosing hay fever

It’s important that hay fever is diagnosed so it can be treated and your child can take steps to avoid it. If your child only has symptoms in July and August on a very sunny day, it's almost certainly hay fever.

In this case, you don’t really need a formal diagnosis. But if your child has symptoms all year round and you’re not sure if it's hay fever, go to your GP for a diagnosis.

Treating hay fever symptoms

If your child doesn't like taking tablets, antihistamines are also available as a liquid. Other treatments include steroid nasal sprays.

John Collard from Allergy UK says that antihistamines generally have a good safety record. “That’s why they’re available over the counter. People with hay fever should take them regularly, not just on the days when they feel bad. If you take them throughout the hay fever season, they work much better.”

Preventing hay fever symptoms

Pollen is released in the early morning. As the air warms up, the pollen is carried up above our heads. As evening comes and the air cools, pollen comes back down. So symptoms are usually worse first thing in the morning and early evening, particularly on days that have been warm and sunny. To reduce your child’s exposure to pollens: 

  • Keep windows closed at night so pollen doesn’t enter the house.
  • Buy your child a pair of wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen entering their eyes.
  • Smear petroleum jelly around the inside of your child’s nose to trap pollen and stop it being inhaled.
  • Wash your child’s hair, face and hands when they come back indoors and change their clothes.
  • Don't let them play in fields or large areas of grassland. 
  • Use air filters to try to reduce pollen that's floating around the house.
  • Keep the car windows shut when driving.

Read about treating hay fever.

Page last reviewed: 23/05/2012

Next review due: 23/05/2014

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

elizabeth gallacher said on 26 June 2008

yes it beats paying £8.00 for a tiny tub of haymax and its the exact same

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Katiie said on 17 June 2008

I never knew that vaseline could helpp!!

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