It’s quite easy to confuse your child’s hay fever symptoms with the common cold, especially if it occurs outside of spring time and you’ve never suffered with hay fever yourself. So how can you tell? Here are all the symptoms you need to look out for and how to treat it.
What is hay fever?
Allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, is an allergy that primarily affects the nose, although it can also spread to the eyes, throat, ears and sinuses.
When can you get hay fever?
Hay fever can happen all year round (which is called perennial allergic rhinitis), however, it’s more common in spring time because of all the seasonal flowers and pollen about. It can present at any age too – even in babies.
What causes hay fever?
If someone in your family suffers from hay fever then your child will be more susceptible to developing the allergy, however, the environment in which they’re living is also another major contributing factor. A person with hay fever is allergic to various particles which get trapped in their nasal cavity due to nasal hair and mucus, and therefore the condition is triggered by what’s in the air they’re breathing in.
Key triggers of hay fever include:
- Pollen (from flowers, grass and trees)
- Dust mites
- Animal fur and hair
- Cigarette smoke
If someone has hay fever all year round then it’s most likely they’re allergic to dust, animal fur or mould – as opposed to flower pollen.
Signs and symptoms of hay fever
Hay fever can present with a number of different symptoms, many of which are the same for other conditions such as the common cold. If your child is very young and can’t talk, it could be hard to determine whether they do have hay fever or not, so it’s good to know the signs to be on the look out for. These include:
- Frequent sneezing fits: particularly when outdoors
- A runny nose: with clear mucus that isn’t thick
- Stuffy sinuses: talking or breathing sounds funny due to a blocked or stuffed up nose
- Rubbing eyes: eyes might be itchy, red, swollen or watery
- Headaches: they may put their hand on their forehead
- Other itches: ears, nose, throat and mouth may also be itchy
- Generally seeming unwell: crying, not feeding or sleeping well, unhappy or looking unwell
- No temperature: unlike a virus, hay fever won’t raise their temperature
- Symptoms don’t go away: unlike a cold, hay fever symptoms can last for a while unless treated
Problems it can create
When hay fever is mild there generally isn’t too much reason for concern, although if left untreated, children can become very tired and sleepy during the day, and have trouble sleeping well. The general symptoms can also cause a lot of anguish – such as terribly itchy eyes.
In more extreme cases of hay fever, it can develop into the following health issues:
- A higher chance of sinus infections
- It can exacerbate asthma symptoms, making it harder to control
- Bad breath
- A sore throat or husky voice
- Eye infections caused by excessive rubbing
- Difficulty concentrating, learning, and poor behaviour
Prevention of hay fever
The best way to prevent a hay fever flare-up in your child is to identify the triggers and then minimise their exposure to it. In some cases a visit to a doctor to test for allergies might be required (one example being a skin prick test).
Some of the ways to prevent hay fever in children include:
- Opening up windows to let fresh air in and dust out
- Washing bed linen and soft toys regularly (to reduce build up of mould spores)
- Not letting pets sleep in your child’s room
- Removing any trees or flowers near their window that have allergic pollens
- Putting sunglasses on when outside (to minimise pollen in the eyes)
- Not smoking around your child
- Not drying their clothes on the line on high pollen days (you can check the pollen forecast on various websites such as Weather Zone)
Treatment of hay fever
Luckily there are ways to treat hay fever and reduce your child’s discomfort. Over-the-counter, non-drowsy liquid antihistamines for children are very effective, and for older kids antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays are also good.
If your child has severe hay fever allergies then a long term treatment such as allergen immunotherapy might be required. If you are at all concerned your child has hay fever, it’s best to speak to your doctor and they will advise the best course of treatment.