Hay fever in children is caused by allergens from grasses, and less commonly trees and plants. This often affects children, as while it is typically thought of as a summer complaint, the pollen season in the UK starts much earlier in the year during the spring when children are at school.
A study1 by Allergy UK in partnership with Kleenex found that 84% of children with hay fever experience symptoms more than once day per week between April-August, and 75% experience symptoms every year.
So, whether your child has experienced symptoms before or not, it’s best to be prepared early in the year to be ready to help them as much as possible. With the help of our partners at Allergy UK, we’ve put together a useful guide with advice and tips, from medication to exposure to allergens.
Tips for supporting your child and helping their peers understand the situation:
It is important to understand the emotional stress that dealing with hay fever can place on children, and to make sure that they know they are supported. 37% of parents of children with hay fever reported that their child felt embarrassed by their hay fever symptoms in social situations, while 34% felt that their child was using excuses other than their hay fever to avoid going outside.
It is especially helpful if children can feel that their peers understand their symptoms and the impact that their condition can have on their lives.
Allergy UK suggest:
- Remember to praise older children after medication, as medication can also be uncomfortable for them
- Mentioning to others how well your child is coping while they are present can boost their self-esteem and make them more compliant
- If giving eye drops to young children, it can be helpful to have something with which you can distract the child once the eye drops have been given, for example, letting your child put a star on their chart
- It can be helpful to role play with a younger child using a doll, telling them what is going to happen and letting them repeat the procedure on their doll after having their own eye drops administered
- To get your child to co-operate with their treatment you could try distraction techniques such as inventing a specific game, for example, I-spy or a word game, that can be played while you do it
Tips for reducing exposure to allergens:
It can be tricky to know how to minimise your child’s contact with allergens. Try out these tips:
- Stay indoors until after midday (if possible). This will reduce exposure
- Try to avoid going out on windy days or after thunderstorms
- Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes
- Shower on arriving home and consider bathing the eyes frequently with a wet washer
- Stay inside when the grass is being mown
- Consider planting a low allergen garden around the home
- Keep windows closed both at home and particularly when in the car (and where possible use re-circulating air conditioning in the car)
- Do not picnic in parks or in the country during the pollen season
- Try to plan family holidays out of the pollen season, or holiday at the seaside
- If the child is sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are outside the bedroom window, have them removed
- Carry a supply of tissues
Kleenex Allergy Comfort Tissues are extremely soft, ultra absorbant and hypoallergic - they also have the Allergy UK Seal of Approval!
Tips for handling hay fever at school:
Hay fever can make school life difficult for young people, particularly during the summer months.
Hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, an itchy/blocked/runny nose and itchy/inflamed/streaming eyes, can lead to disrupted sleep which impacts alertness and the ability to concentrate. The symptoms are often unpleasant and in a classroom setting, can be extremely difficult to manage.
It is common for children with asthma to also have hay fever. If this is the case then it is important that hay fever symptoms are well managed with the correct treatments and medication, as there is an increased risk that uncontrolled hay fever may impact on asthma, exacerbating asthma symptoms and increasing the risk of an asthma attack.
Here are some tips to help your child get through the summer term:
- Use a daily non-sedating antihistamine which come in both liquid and tablet form
- Monitor pollen forecasts which can help indicate when to start taking allergy medications and can help with planning time spent outside
- If you do drive children to school, keep windows closed and have the air intake on re-circulate to prevent pollen exposure inside
- Ask teachers to keep windows closed to avoid to your child being exposed to pollen in their classroom
- Invest in a pair of wraparound sunglasses and a hat for your child to keep allergens out of their eyes/off of their face when they are outside
- Help your child get a good night’s sleep by keeping windows closed overnight in their bedroom. Make sure they wash their hair/face and change their clothes before they get into bed so that pollen is not transferred onto their bed sheets/pillow
- Make sure your child’s allergy medication is available throughout the day
PE and sports day can also cause a lot of worry for children living with severe hay fever and asthma which is exacerbated by hay fever. Here are some tips to help your child's symptoms when taking part in outdoor activities:
- Ask the school if some PE lessons can remain inside, in the school sports hall, when pollen counts are high
- Ask the school if they can avoid outdoor activities being scheduled early mornings and evenings, when pollen counts are higher
- Encourage your child to wear protective glasses and a hat with a peak or large brim to help keep pollens from their eyes and face
- Make sure your child has their allergy medication with them and it is accessible wherever they are exercising
- If the school has a shower room, encourage your child to take a shower after outdoor activities and before they change back into their uniform
- Give your child a separate bag for their sports clothes to contain the pollens carried on them
- If you have any concerns speak to your child’s school as they may be able to make special arrangements
Tips for medication
Medication can be used to manage hay fever symptoms in children. Types of medication that can be prescribed for children include:
- A liquid or syrup form of antihistamine for small children
- Tablet form of antihistamine for older children
- Nasal sprays and eye drops containing antihistamine. These can help to soothe irritated noses and eyes
For more detailed information on treatments and medications, please click here.
You should consult your GP for more information on treatments and medication to find out which ones are suitable for your child and their symptoms.
If hay fever medication is not improving symptoms, consider if your child is taking it correctly and regularly (keeping it near to a toothbrush can help your child to remember to take it).
Don’t suffer in silence as there are many different treatment options available to help alleviate hay fever symptoms. Speaking to a pharmacist is a good place to start if the treatment your child is using isn’t working. If you are still unsure speak to your GP or healthcare professional.
- For more detailed information on hay fever in children, please visit the Allergy UK website - click here.
- For more information on living comfortably with allergies, please visit the Allergy UK website - click here.
All content and advice is provided on behalf of Allergy UK in partnership with Kleenex®
1 Research details:
In March and April 2021, 7,242 respondents were contacted by Sapio Research. Results on the incidence of hay fever are taken from looking at the proportion of people that were screened out of the survey versus those who continued because they suffered with hay fever (3,541).
The full survey with sufferers was then conducted among 3202 Hay fever sufferers and 339 Parents with children who suffer from hay fever, from an initial 7,242 respondents. Interviews were conducted online by Sapio Research in April 2021 using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. In this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 1.4 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.