Does your child struggle with hay fever? They’re not alone. Hay fever in children is really common. In fact, a study1 by Allergy UK found that 84% of kids suffer hay fever symptoms more than one day per week April to August, with 75% experiencing symptoms every year.
Whether your child has had hay fever symptoms before or not, it’s best to prepare early and be ready to help them as soon as symptoms hit. Understanding what type of pollen they’re allergic to will help avoid triggers. Take our quick hay fever and allergy test to find out.
With 49% of the UK population suffering from hay fever symptoms every year, we’ve pulled together advice on how to manage hay fever symptoms in kids. With the help of Allergy UK, we’ve covered everything you need to know, from medication to exposure tips and monitoring pollen.
What causes hay fever in children?
Hay fever in kids is commonly caused by pollen from grasses, trees and plants. While hay fever is typically thought of as a summer problem, UK pollen season starts much earlier in the year during spring. Annoyingly, that means hay fever can be at its peak when your kids are still at school, playing on grassy fields and sat in classrooms with flung-open windows. Not ideal, hey? But you’re not completely powerless to help manage their hay fever symptoms.
Tips for supporting your kids and encouraging them to take their hay fever medication
You know it’s going to be a bad hay fever day when your kid (finally) wakes up and stumbles downstairs with a stuffy nose and puffy eyes. You’ll end up stuffing their pockets full of tissues as you send them off to the school gates. Stressful for you? Yep. Uncomfortable for your kid? Definitely. It’s not a great time for either of you when hay fever symptoms hit.
In fact, over a third (37%) of parents said that their child felt embarrassed by their hay fever symptoms. And 34% felt that their kids were using other excuses to avoid going outside, which isn’t what you need on those busy early school mornings.
Kids need to feel that their parents and peers understand their hay fever symptoms so they don’t have to try and hide them. Talk to your child about how you can tackle pesky pollen together.
Allergy UK has some suggestions on how to do this:
- Praise your kid after they take their hay fever medication. This lets them know you recognise it’s uncomfortable for them.
- Mention to others in front of your child how well you think they’re coping with hay fever. This can help boost their self-esteem.
- You could reward younger kids when you give them their eye drops. For example, adding a star to their behaviour chart, or giving them a treat. Why not play a game while you do it to distract them? I Spy is always a winner.
- Try roleplay with your younger child using toys. Talk them through what’s going to happen and let them repeat the procedure on their toy after giving them their own eye drops.
How to help manage hay fever in children at school
When you send your kid out the door or drop them at the school gates, you might be worrying how they’re going to manage their hay fever symptoms during the day. Being pro-active is the best way to manage your concerns. There are children’s hay fever remedies you can follow, and things you can do to prep your kids (and their sinuses), for the day ahead.
Here are some tips to help your child get through the summer term:
- Use a daily, non-sedating antihistamine. These come in both liquid and tablet form, so are handy if your kid doesn’t like taking pills.
- Monitor pollen forecasts so you know when your child should start taking their allergy meds. This can also help when planning time spent outside.
- If you drive your kid to school, keep windows closed and have the air-con on to keep pollen at bay. No one wants to bake in a sweltering car, so perhaps have the air-con running a few minutes before you get in.
- You could ask your child’s teacher to keep classroom windows closed, but bear in mind they’ll need to take the needs of the entire class into consideration.
- Buy your child some wraparound sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen out of their eyes and off their face when they’re outside. If you’ve a fashionista on your hands, go shopping together so they can choose ones they like.
- Make sure they take a shower every day before they go to bed.
- Keep windows closed overnight in their bedroom. Encourage them to wash their hair and face so that pollen isn’t transferred onto their bedsheets.
- Make sure their hay fever medication is available throughout the day. This might mean handing it to a teacher or school nurse who can care for them at school.
Managing hay fever in kids in PE lessons and sports days
For kids living with severe hay fever, PE and sports days can cause them to worry. They want to join in with their mates, but are either stuck inside or can’t enjoy themselves due to their symptoms. No-one wants to run a hurdle race with streaming eyes and a tight chest.
Here are some tips to help your child's hay fever symptoms when taking part in outdoor activities:
- Ask the school if some PE lessons can remain inside when pollen counts are high.
- Ask the school if they can avoid outdoor activities being scheduled early in the morning and in the evening when pollen counts are higher. You could suggest that teachers themselves keep track of local pollen counts so they can adapt lessons accordingly.
- Encourage your child to wear sunglasses and a hat with a large brim to help keep pollen particles from their eyes and face.
- Make sure your child has their allergy medication with them whenever they’re exercising.
- If the school has a shower room, encourage your kid to take a shower after PE and before they change back into their uniform.
- Give your child a separate bag for their sports clothes so that pollen particles are contained.
Managing hay fever in babies and toddlers
When your child is younger, you may not know how to tackle toddler and baby hay fever symptoms. To add to your worry and stress, when they’re small they can’t take many over-the-counter children’s hay fever remedies. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help them. There are several tips to help minimise your child’s contact with allergens.
- If possible, stay indoors until after midday to reduce pollen exposure.
- Avoid going out on windy days or after thunderstorms.
- Try to get them to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes.
- Put them in the bath or shower when you get home and change their clothes.
- Gently wipe their eyes and face with cool, clean water and cotton wool frequently throughout the day.
- Keep them inside when the grass is being cut.
- Keep windows closed both at home and when you’re both in the car. Use your car’s air con if it has it.
- As much as they make for great days out, don’t picnic in parks or in the country during pollen season.
- Try to plan family holidays out of pollen season, or holiday at the seaside.
- Remove any plants your kids might be sensitive to from your garden or outside their bedroom window.
- Carry a supply of tissues. Kleenex Allergy Comfort Tissues are extremely soft, ultra-absorbent and hypoallergic so perfect for tiny noses and faces. They also have the Allergy UK Seal of Approval.
Other things to consider with hay fever management
Symptoms and sleep
No surprise but hay fever symptoms in children can lead to disrupted sleep. After all, it’s hard to sleep when you’re sneezing, have an itchy, blocked or snotty nose, and irritated watery eyes. Not getting enough shut-eye impacts your kid’s alertness and their ability to concentrate (not great if you’re sitting in a classroom all day). It’ll also mean they’ll feel – quite rightly – grumpy and irritable. Not something your child, you or their teacher wants!
Hay fever and asthma in children
It’s common for children with asthma to also have hay fever. If this is the case for your kid, it’s important you manage their hay fever symptoms with the right treatments. There’s a risk that uncontrolled hay fever may have an impact on their asthma, aggravating symptoms. But, if both are well managed, there shouldn’t be a need to worry – just keep an eye out or speak to your doctor if you’re unsure.
What medication to use to manage hay fever
Medication can be used to manage your child’s hay fever symptoms. If you’re concerned, you should always speak to your child’s doctor so they can give them the correct treatment. Types of medication that may be prescribed include:
- Antihistamine syrup for small children
- Antihistamine tablets for older children
- Antihistamine nasal sprays and eye drops
For more information on treatments and medications, please click here.
Speak to your doctor to find out which hay fever treatments and medication are suitable for your child.
Make sure you follow any medication’s proper instruction. If your child’s hay fever symptoms aren’t improving after the treatment, you should follow up and speak to your GP.
Don’t suffer in silence with your child’s hay fever. There are many options available to help ease hay fever symptoms in your child and start making things more manageable for both of you. Tracking pollen levels in your area is a good place to start, as it can help you plan summer days out and prepare for the mornings when your kid will need their medication. You should also speak to your pharmacist so they can prescribe the best treatments and, if you’re still unsure, talk to your doctor.
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
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.
Is hay fever contagious?
No, hay fever is not contagious. It is caused by an allergic reaction some people have to pollen particles, so it’s not infectious.
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction certain people have to pollen particles expelled by plants, grasses, and trees when it gets into their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Why have I suddenly developed hay fever?
Your immune system changes constantly throughout your life, so it’s not impossible to suddenly develop hay fever in adulthood. An unusual onset of hay fever can also be caused by increased pollen levels.
The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment