Summer sniffles, sneezes and streaming eyes are most common in older children, from the age of about seven. But some of us get struck with hay fever even as babies. If you suspect your little one is suffering from summer allergies, take a look at our complete guide, from identifying hay fever to banishing symptoms for good.
what causes hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergy to pollen – the official name is 'seasonal allergic rhinitis'. In spring and summer, plants release pollen into the air: in about one in four of us, this irritates our nasal passages, causing runny noses, sneezing and sore eyes.
Grass pollen is the most common culprit, although some plant and tree pollens can affect people too. A lot of people are only allergic to one type of pollen, so they don't feel their symptoms all the way through the season. An unlucky few are allergic to a lot of different types, so they suffer with stuffy noses from the first day of spring until autumn arrives.
how can i tell if those sniffles are baby hay fever?
Hay fever symptoms in babies are the same as for older children or adults. So you might notice them rubbing their eyes which are red and puffy. They might have a runny nose, with clear snot instead of yellowy-green. They might sneeze a lot, especially when you take them outside.
Symptoms are worse from March to October, when there's more pollen in the air. If your baby is sneezing like this from November to February, they might have a different allergy: dust mites and pet hair are often to blame.
should i take them to the doctor?
Yes: it's best make an appointment as soon as you notice the symptoms, even if it's high hay fever season. The doctor will be able to make certain that it's an allergy to pollen and not anything else. (Dust mites and pet hair can be tackled in the home.) Your GP can find out what allergy is responsible by taking your allergy history, examining your baby's nose, and sometimes by giving them an allergy test. But they're unlikely to prescribe hay fever medication until they're over 12 months old.
what can I do if my baby has hay fever?
The best thing is to keep your baby away from places where grass pollen is likely to be in the air.
Checking the pollen forecast for your area will help you know when you need to be on your guard. On high pollen days, keep windows closed and avoid parks, gardens and other grassy areas – now's a good time for that beach trip you've been planning!
Keep your baby well covered with a wide brim hat and sunglasses when you venture out, and wash their face when you get home to get any pollen off them.
Don't dry clothes outside, and give your pets a brush before they come in. Your home will be a pollen-free fortress.
what are the best hay fever remedies for children?
You should definitely speak to your pharmacist or doctor before buying any hay fever medication, as most aren't suitable for children before they're one year old, and others aren't suitable for under 12’s.
If you get the all-clear to use them, the most common medications against hay fever are antihistamines, which stop the body's immune system from overreacting to things like pollen. Liquids and syrups are more common for small children, and you can also buy nasal sprays and eye drops to directly target symptoms.