In a nutshell: It's unlikely. Hay fever is really not at all common in children under 2 years old.


"Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is an allergy to pollen, and you need to experience at least 1 to 2 pollen seasons to become sensitised and start showing symptoms," says Margaret Kellman, Acting Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK.

A small baby, therefore, is unlikely to have been able to clock up enough pollen exposure to become sensitised yet.

Of course, it is theoretically possible that, if your baby is born in September – towards the end of an April to September pollen season – they could become sensitised then and go on to develop hay fever symptoms the following April at the beginning of the next pollen season, all before they turn 1. But this scenario is, says Margaret, really pretty rare.

"Hay fever symptoms can occasionally occur around the age of 2," says Margaret, "but hay fever is much more common in school-age children and teenagers."

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My baby seems to hay fever symptoms? What could it be if it's not hay fever?

Symptoms that are typical of hay fever include:

  • Red, watery eyes
  • Rubbing eyes because they itch
  • Constant runny nose – with clear, rather than thick, mucus
  • Sneezing, particularly if they're outdoors
  • Coughing
  • Congested or stuff nose

If your baby is displaying any of these symptoms, it’s more likely, at this age, that there is another cause for them than hay fever.

A runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing could be symptoms of a cold, for example – especially if they also have a temperature.

Another possibility is that your baby may be allergic to something else in their surroundings, like dust mites or animal dander (hair fluff) and have allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis are similar to symptoms of hay fever but would usually be seen throughout the year, rather that just in the pollen seasons, and may actually worsen during the winter months when we spend more time indoors.

Should I take my baby to the doctor if they have what look like hay fever symptoms?

Yes, if you are concerned and /or if:

  • Your baby seems very unsettled or unwell
  • Your baby's feeding is affected
  • Your baby's symptoms have continues longer than a normal light cold would (a week or so)

"Your healthcare professional will check to see if your baby's symptoms are an indication of some other illness or allergy," says Margaret.

Can I give my baby hay fever medication?

No – not without talking to your GP first. Hay fever medication that's sold over the counter is not suitable for babies under 1.

Even if your baby does turn out to be one of the rare exceptions who get hay fever before the age of 2, they will need a special prescription from your GP to make sure the medication and the dosage is correct.

"Medication for hay fever," says Margaret, "should not be given to any baby or toddler without an accurate diagnosis from a healthcare professional and a prescription or advice on the correct dose of the right medication for your baby's age and weight."

I have hay fever. Does that mean my baby will get hay fever?

"There is definitely a genetic link to susceptibility to hay fever," says Margaret. "But that doesn't mean your baby is guaranteed to get hay fever if you have it. Allergies can run in families, but they're not always inherited."

And sometimes, the type of allergy that is passed down from parent to child can be different from the condition the parent has. You could have hay fever, for example, but your child (if they develop any allergic condition at all) might get eczema.

About our expert Margaret Kelman

Margaret Kelman is Acting Head of Clinical Service at Allergy UK. She lives and works in Scotland and has a special interest in young people and food allergy, eczema and urticaria. She recently worked with the University of Edinburgh on te development of a nurse-led allergy care programme. Margaret studied at the University of Southampton and has worked within NHS Scotland as the allergy advisor for the Children and Young People’s Allergy Network Scotland. She’s been awarded the Barry Kay Award for excellence in allergy care and research in primary care.

Last reviewed: May 10 2023

Pic: Getty Images




Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.