Does my toddler have hay fever?

Family GP Dr Lowri Kew explains the signs and symptoms to look out for if you think your toddler has hay fever –and suggest some safe ways to treat it


Spring and summer are the peak of the hay fever season – with grass pollens released into the air from May until mid-August, and wild flower pollens from June until mid-September. And if, at this time of year, your toddler has itchy eyes, is sneezing and has a runny nose, does that mean she has hay fever? It could well do…


What are the symptoms of toddler hay fever?

These vary from being mild and irritating to severe, which can cause significant disruption to your toddler’s daily life.

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itching in the nose, throat, eyes or ears
  • Headache
  • Watery red or swollen eyes
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. In Britain most people are affected by grass pollen, although flowers, trees and even mould can cause it.

Your toddler’s also more likely to suffer if there’s a family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever.

How can I treat my toddler’s hay fever?

When it comes to hay fever, the best advice for is to stay inside as much as possible, especially in the early morning and evening, when pollen counts are higher. Don’t be tempted to open windows to keep bedrooms cool, as the pollen count is highest in the evening and at dawn. Instead, invest in a fan or a portable air conditioning unit.

Make sure your child is dressed to lessen the exposure to pollen. Buy a pair of wrap-around sunglasses and a machine-washable hat. Simply pop the hat in the wash once your child returns indoors. Stripping off outdoor clothes and a shower can also help.

Replace wind-pollinating and heavily scented plants in your garden with bee-pollinated plants and flowers.

If your toddler has been out and about and is suffering, a warm bath and hair wash is a fun and comforting way to wash away any remaining pollen

If your toddler’s eyes are affected, soothe them with a cool, damp flannel. Keeping eyes shut helps, as blinking may irritate them. If just one eye is affected, keep it closed by placing a hankie against it behind a pair of glasses.

What natural remedies are safe to use?

  • A daily dose of local honey made by local bees is often cited as a way of getting the body used to the pollen produced in the area where you live. This should be started as early in the year as possible. However, the effectiveness of this treatment has yet to be proven and honey should not be given to children under 1.
  • Try giving your child apples and red onions, which contain the natural antihistamine quercetin. Eating pineapple also helps the body to absorb quercetin more easily.
  • Brightly coloured fruit and veg, such as oranges, watermelon, grapefruit, red pepper and carrots, are stuffed full of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which help the body to tackle hay fever symptoms.

Are there hay fever medicines toddlers can take?

Drug treatments vary and partly depend on the symptoms. The treatments are similar for adults and children (though pregnant women need get medical advice from a pharmacist or a doctor). While many treatments are available without a prescription, always check with your doctor or pharmacist that it’s suitable for your child’s age, before giving your toddler any medicine.

Sore eyes can be treated with lubricating eye drops or washes. Anti-allergy eye drops, such as sodium cromoglycate, may also help.

If your toddler is short of breath or is wheezing, an asthma inhaler (prescribed by your GP) is useful.

If your toddler’s nose is badly affected, a steroid nose spray can help. These are available over the counter for adults, but are prescription-only for your child. Ideally, this should be used about 4 weeks before you anticipate symptoms.

Antihistamines treat all symptoms and can be taken from 1 year: ask your pharmacist for one that’s appropriate. Antihistamines are the best treatment for multiple symptoms in your toddler, especially as toddlers often hate eye drops and nose sprays.

About Dr Lowri Kew

Dr Lowri Kew is a GP and the co-author of Your Baby’s First Year: Month-by-Month What to Expect and How to Care for Your Baby.


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