Hay fever in babies and children

Hay fever in babies and children; practical tips to help

If your baby or child is suffering with hay fever it can be absolutely miserable – for them and for you. Hay fever sufferers are told to stay inside when pollen levels are high, but even for adults this is tricky. For children it is near impossible, especially when they are at school or nursery. So what else can be done to reduce hay fever symptoms? Read on for some parent-tested practical tips to help.

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What are the symptoms of hay fever in babies and children?

The main symptoms of hay fever are pretty well known; itchy & red eyes, a stuffy nose, an irritated throat, and sinus pain. Unfortunately, hay fever in babies and younger children is easy to confuse for a common cold. Keeping a diary of symptoms and looking for patterns as to when these occur can help you to work out what’s going on. If your child has existing allergic conditions, such food allergies, asthma or eczema, then hay fever becomes more likely.

Hay fever can also aggravate asthma symptoms. Asthma and Lung UK has some useful information about how to reduce the risk of pollen triggering an asthma attack

It’s less well known that hay fever can cause eczema flare ups. That was the first symptom for my son. At age 3, his existing eczema became really hard to control, and we spent a long time investigating if he had a new food allergy. After seeing his allergy specialist, she suggested early tree pollen may have been the issue based on the timing. This was confirmed with skin prick tests. It had never even occurred to me as the cause!

All of these hay fever symptoms can have a big impact on a child’s mood, energy levels and ability to concentrate. It’s no surprise, given that all the adults I know with hay fever also find it a difficult thing to deal with. 

How to help babies & children with hay fever 

It is certainly worth having a chat with your GP or pharmacist about hay fever medication. Antihistamines, nose sprays and eye drops can all help, depending on your child’s age. My son has non-drowsy antihistamines daily during tree pollen season, which has made a big difference. But even with this he still experiences some symptoms, which is common. Luckily there are quite a few things we can do to help ease the symptoms of hay fever for our children.

1. Establish which type of pollen is the trigger

There are a range of pollens which can cause hay fever, and you can be affected by one, just a few, or all of them. The timing of your child’s symptoms can help pinpoint what they are reacting to. Keeping a diary of symptoms and looking at a pollen calendar will help establish the cause in more detail.

For us, my son is allergic to early tree pollens, and birch in particular. Knowing this helps us plan when to step up the preventative measures!

2. Get informed about pollen levels

There will always be days within the pollen season when levels are particularly high, and knowing this in advance is really useful. For those in the UK, the Met Office produce a 5 day pollen forecast. I recommend downloading their app, where you can get pollen alerts for your area. 

It’s also worth knowing that pollen levels fluctuate throughout the day. According to Allergy UK “pollen levels are at their highest at the beginning of the day, when they rise with the warming air, and at the end of the day when it’s cooling down.” Keep windows closed during these times to avoid getting pollen in the house.

3. Consider an air purifier

A few years ago we decided to invest in an air purifier for my son’s bedroom. Although it’s impossible to eliminate allergens from the air in the house completely, we felt it was worth putting something extra in place in his bedroom. Hay fever had been causing a very itchy throat, which was particularly bad at night. He had also been waking up with puffy eyes. 

When you start looking for air purifiers you will find a HUGE range of prices. You can spend upwards of £500! When making your choice consider:

  • Noise; will it bother your child when running overnight?
  • What allergens do you need it to trap? Not all filters are effective on all particles. For example, some are aimed more at pet hair and dust than pollen. For us we needed it to trap both pollen and fine dust.
  • How energy efficient is it to run?

Luckily we managed to find one which ticked all the boxes which was at the cheaper end of the scale. After doing loads of research, we bought a Levoit*, and we’ve been really happy with it. Importantly, the filter is effective at trapping both pollen and dust particles (my son also has a dust mite allergy). 

If you have another air purifier you are happy with (or not!) comment below to help out other parents choosing what to buy.

4. Use a barrier cream

A barrier cream can be used to trap pollen before it gets into the nose or eyes. Unfortunately it’s never going to stop all the pollen from getting through, but just trapping some can help to reduce symptoms. We use Haymax*, which is suitable for even very little children. 

I like the fact that this can be used alongside any prescribed hay fever medication with no issue. It’s also the sort of thing children can take to school and apply themselves before outdoor play, as they become more independent. 

5. Dry laundry inside during hay fever season

This is one of my top tips – during hay fever season, do not hang your washing outside to dry. If you are lucky enough to have a garden and the sun is shining, this is incredibly annoying! But trust me, it does make a big difference. When washing is hanging outside the pollen gets trapped in the fabric and then you end up bringing all that pollen right back inside, undoing all your hard work.

If you want to dry clothes quickly inside, you could consider a dehumidifier with a laundry dry function. We have a Meaco* dehumidifier which is good for this. 

6. Change clothes after playing outside

Just as pollen clings to fabric when it’s on the washing line, it also clings to clothes being worn. On high pollen days, it’s worth getting your child to do a quick outfit change when they come inside. And yes, I do realise that if you have a toddler you may be rolling your eyes at the idea of a ‘quick’ outfit change 😂. 

If symptoms are really troublesome, a shower after playing outside can be helpful.

7. Sunglasses and hats 

Anything you can do to physically keep pollen away from children’s noses and eyes is helpful. A hat with a wide rim or visor can be a good way to do that. This also stops pollen getting trapped in children’s hair – an added benefit!

Sunglasses are also a really good idea to act as a shield. I personally struggle to get my children to keep sunglasses on, but the best brand I have found for little ones are Babiators*. They are flexible for a comfy fit, and stand up to being flung around and sat on!

8. Get your child’s teachers involved 

Many children spend a lot of time at school or nursery, and outdoor play is a big part of that. Talk to your child’s teacher about practical steps they can take to keep hay fever symptoms under control. It is in their interest as a child with bad hay fever is often grumpy and unable to concentrate! 

For example, you can ask teachers to help to apply a barrier cream before outdoor play, or to remind older children to do it themselves. They can encourage your child to use their sunglasses and hat, and even give them a chance to change their top after playing outside on high pollen days.   

If any medication may be needed, for example if your child’s asthma symptoms could be triggered, make sure this is incorporated into any allergy or asthma action plans your school has for your child. 

Over to you! What are your top tips for easing hay fever in babies and children?

What practical steps have helped you to manage your child’s hay fever symptoms? Comment below to share your best tips x

Do you have a child with food allergies? If so, you may be interested in:

And if child is suffering from unexplained eczema flare ups, you might find these posts useful:

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