Can babies get hay fever – and what symptoms should I look out for?
“Yes, hay fever can affect even very young children and babies,” advises Lindsey McManus of hay fever charity Allergy UK. Typical symptoms to look out for include:
- your baby rubbing their eyes because they’re itchy
- constant runny nose that is clear rather than thick
- sneezing – particularly if this is happening outdoors
Hay fever affects sufferers between May and October, as this is when tree and grass pollen is at its highest. If your baby’s symptoms also occur outside the hay fever season, then this could be an allergy to dust mites or pet fur rather than hay fever.
If this is the case, open your windows (dust mites hate dry, cold air) and wash fluffy toys regularly to kill the mites.
Viruses can also cause symptoms similar to hay fever, but there are ways to distinguish between the two, says Lindsey. A baby or child suffering from hay fever:
- won’t have a temperature
- general symptoms of being unwell – which they would do with a cold
- symptoms won’t clear up after a few days, as cold symptoms do
Visit your doctor if you suspect your baby has hay fever – it’s important it’s diagnosed so that it can be treated.
What hay fever relief can I give my baby?
Most doctors won’t prescribe anything to treat hay fever in babies under 1.
Don’t presume that just because hay fever medicines are available in pharmacies, or are suitable for you, that they will be suitable for your baby or young child. While some antihistamines are suitable from 1 year, many others are not suitable for children under 12. Always talk to your pharmacist or GP about the age of your child.
So here are 9 baby-safe ways to reduce hay fever
There are lots of practical ways to help a baby or child suffering from hay fever, too, according to Lindsey from Allergy UK.
- Listen to the daily pollen forecast. Children who are especially sensitive to pollen might start to get hay fever symptoms when the pollen count is as low as 10; when it reaches 50, most sufferers will start to struggle
- When the pollen count is high, keep your baby away from gardens and parks, especially if the grass has just been cut. Choose a walk on the street or a visit to town instead. Even better, head for the seaside.
- Wash your baby’s face with cool water to remove pollen from the face
- Put a brimmed hat on your baby while outside
- You can also smear a tiny bit of baby-friendly nasal balm around your baby’s nose, as this may help prevent pollen getting in
- Change your baby’s clothes and wash your baby’s hair after you’ve been outside to remove any trapped pollen
- Give pets who’ve been outside a wipe-down to get rid of pollen in their fur
- Don’t dry your baby’s clothes, bedding or your clothes on a washing line outside on high pollen days, as the pollen can attach to these
- If your baby will let you, a pair of sunglasses (particularly wraparound ones) will protect your baby’s eyes against airborne pollens which can spark hay fever symptoms
I suffer from hay fever so will my baby inherit it?
Not necessarily, says Lindsay. “Although allergies can run in families, they’re not always inherited. Sometimes, the type of allergy that is passed down to children can be different from the condition the parent has. For example, you could have hay fever, but your child might develop eczema.”