How to treat hay fever symptoms in babies and young children


Children under one can’t have traditional antihistamines (Picture: Getty)

Hay fever might seem mild, but it can make you pretty miserable and if you have a baby or a young child, treating symptoms is much harder.

Most antihistamines aren’t recommended for young children and there are none currently available for children under one.

This month, the pollen count is high and most adults are treating their allergy to the stuff with over the counter solutions. LloydsPharmacy reported sales of hay fever and allergy relief tablets have increased by 87% and allergy & hay fever eye drops increased by 174% over the past week.

But if your child displays symptoms, it’s best to speak to a pharmacist before grabbing anything off the shelf.

Hay fever in young children is not common and usually doesn’t become a problem until they are a little older so get advice.

Are you sure it’s hay fever?

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura says: ‘It’s very difficult to diagnose hay fever in young children.

‘Studies show that usually it doesn’t develop until the age of three or four.

‘The symptoms are very similar to a cold – a cough, sneezing, itchy eyes and puffy face – so it’s important to check if it’s that. Obviously you don’t have a fever with hay fever, and hay fever will continue over a period of time, whereas a cold will go away in a few days.’

Of course, it’s also important to consider Covid in the current climate.

Things you can buy

If it is thought to be an allergy or hay fever, nasal sprays can be used in children from a few weeks old and can offer some relief.

Anshu adds: ‘A nasal spray can help to wash out the nostrils but different products are licensed for different ages so you can check with your pharmacist on the best one.

‘Something else that can help is Vaseline on the nostrils, which is something we recommend to adults too. It helps to trap the pollen.

‘It’s good to have wet wipes and tissues handy to make sure that if there is any eye discharge or any secretions from the nostrils, you can make sure that that’s not irritating the child because irritation can make the symptoms worse.

‘We also sometimes recommend getting a pair of wraparound sunglasses. While it’s not something we usually sell in a pharmacy and it does seem odd thinking about a baby with sunglasses on, it can keep the pollen out of the eyes.

‘Finally, something like an air purifier can help at home.’

Changes to make

Anshu also says that it’s important to consider lifestyle changes to reduce their contact with pollen.

‘Be aware of the pollen count,’ she says.

‘The high pollen count runs from about March to September. It peaks in the morning and evening and is worse on hot, humid days where there is no breeze to blow the pollen away.

‘Try to stay away from high pollen areas. It may not always be possible and then it’s worth considering the products.

‘When you’re at home, keep the windows closed if you can. When you get in, wash their eyes and hands and maybe change their clothes because pollen can be trapped on clothing.

‘If you’ve got curtains, don’t forget to wipe them down regularly, and change bedding as well.’

If it doesn’t improve, see a GP

If you have worked with a pharmacist and tried their suggestions but things don’t improve, speak to your GP.

‘This is a self-care condition that can normally be treated over the counter,’ she says.

‘Generally if you try all these things, you will notice an improvement.

‘If your child is having an allergy that is very bad after that, we would recommend going to a GP as it would need specialist imput.

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