What is hayfever?
Hayfever affects up to 25% of people in the UK and is caused by an abnormal (or allergic) reaction of the body when pollen comes into contact with the nose, eyes or throat. Pollen itself is actually harmless, but it’s the reaction the body has to it which causes the problem!
When your child comes into contact with pollen an allergic reaction is triggered. Their immune system over-reacts to this ‘harmless’ substance, attacking it as if it were a virus rather than recognising that it is safe. Large amounts of the chemical histamine are released, and it is this which causes your child to develop symptoms including itching, inflammation and irritation.
Hayfever is most commonly caused by grass pollen, although other pollens can also trigger the symptoms including weed pollen and tree pollen, such as birch, cypress, oak, plane and sweet chestnut trees.
So how can I tell if my child has hayfever?
There’s a reason hayfever is often called seasonal rhinitis and that’s because symptoms generally occur at the same time, or during the same seasons (spring and summer) every year. If your child’s symptoms follow this pattern, then this is a good sign that it could be hayfever; however if their symptoms are year round then it could be allergic rhinitis, including an allergy to dust mites or pets.
Hayfever is most common in children, particularly teenagers, due to the onset of puberty, and although the condition lessens in severity with age, it can linger well into late adulthood. It rarely develops in children before the age of 3 due to the amount of time they spend indoors, though it can vary from child to child, as do the symptoms they experience.
Another good indicator that your child has hayfever is the symptoms they are experiencing. The symptoms can often be mistaken for a common cold, including a constant runny nose, congestion, sneezing and a scratchy throat. However, if it is hayfever then your child won’t have a fever and nasal discharge will be clear.
Colds also generally clear up within a few days, but hayfever symptoms can take several weeks/months before they disappear – they won’t go until the pollen does.
Another symptom which can tell you if it’s likely to be hayfever is itchiness! Itchy eyes and throat, an itchy feeling in their ears and the roof of their mouth are all often associated with an allergic reaction, rather than their body fighting an infection.
Other symptoms to look out for include watery eyes, dry cough, headaches, skin rashes and although less common, sometimes a loss of smell or taste.
I have hayfever; does that mean my child will too?
There is a strong genetic link, so it’s common for hayfever to run in families. If either parent has allergies of any kind, then it is common for the child to also develop allergies including hayfever; however they don’t always necessarily develop the same ones
What else do I need to be aware of?
If your child has hayfever they may also exhibit a greater tendency for developing asthma, with symptoms including shortness of breath and wheezing, as well as eczema.
How do I treat my child's hayfever symptoms?
If you are still unsure if your child is suffering from hayfever or another allergy, you should speak to your doctor who can conduct an allergy test.
Although there is no real cure for hayfever, as children get older, some find that symptoms lessen or even disappear. Until then it is possible to relieve the severity of the symptoms with prescribed treatments such as antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays.
Are there natural remedies my child can use?
Some parents prefer to use natural remedies when treating their child’s hayfever symptoms. Luffa is a well-known herb, used in many remedies to help reduce the severity of hayfever symptoms, including sneezing, itchy eyes and blocked nose.
This herb can be found in Pollinosan Hayfever tablets, which are non-drowsy and can be used by children over the age of 12. For children between the ages of 2 and 12, you may wish to consider Luffa Complex tincture.
Nasal sprays such as Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray, which can be used by children aged 6 years and over, are ideal if your children don’t like taking tablets. Nasal sprays can help to rinse and cleanse the nose of pollen and other allergens, and restore moisture in the nasal passages too, making the nose feel soothed and more comfortable.
Tips to help reduce your child’s hayfever symptoms
Although it is impossible to entirely avoid pollen, there are some preventative measures which you can take to help reduce your child’s exposure to pollen, which in turn will help to reduce the severity of their symptoms, including:
1. Knowing the pollen count for your area – Pollen counts are great for measuring the amount of pollen in the air, which will allow you to determine how bad your child’s symptoms might be on any given day. Our A.Vogel Pollen Count page will give you an overview of the pollen count in the UK, as well as your local area, helping you plan your child’s day better by avoiding pollen hotspots.
Some quick links:
Find more cities here.
Different times of the day can also affect symptoms. Pollen is released early in the morning, then comes back down in the evening, meaning that first thing in the morning and early evening are often particularly troublesome for hayfever sufferers, especially on warm sunny days – so it is no wonder there are lots of sniffles during the school run and before bedtime!
2. Checking the weather – Pollen levels are very much dependent on the weather. Knowing the weather forecast can be helpful, especially when planning trips or outside activities. Hot, dry and windy weather helps to blow pollen around, whilst a week of dull rainy weather, followed by a few days of warm sunshine, can also drive pollen levels sky high.
3. Washing pollen away – If your child has been playing outdoors for an extended period of time, it is important to wash their face, hands and hair when they come inside. Pollen is sticky stuff, so wash it away as much as possible.
Washing bed linen and changing their clothes regularly will also help reduce exposure to pollen, but be sure to dry your washing inside on high pollen days, as pollen can stick on wet laundry when outside.
4. Choosing preventative clothing for your child – Wearing a peak or large brimmed hat while outside can help, as it can help keep pollen from your child’s eyes and face. Wearing wrap-around sunglasses can also help stop pollen getting in their eyes. Sunglasses will also discourage rubbing, which could make sore eyes worse.
When you have been out for the day, change your child’s clothes and your own as soon as you come back into the house to ensure pollen doesn’t hang around when you are inside.
5. Closing windows – Keep the windows in your home closed on high pollen days and, if possible, use air conditioning in your car when travelling, rather than opening windows.
6. Spreading a little barrier balm around the edge of your child’s nostrils – A barrier balm such as coconut oil can help to trap or block pollen before it is inhaled. Make sure you re-apply it each time your child blows their nose.
7. Vitamin C – This is a natural antihistamine without the unpleasant effects of some conventional antihistamine medication.
Good food sources of vitamin C include blackcurrants, red bell peppers, kale, broccoli, mango, cauliflower, strawberries, papayas, spinach, citrus fruits, elderberries, peaches, raspberries, sweet potatoes and bananas. If your child struggles to eat their fruit and veg, try adding them to delicious smoothies or why not make your own fresh fruit ice lollies.
Limit the amount of dairy products in your child’s diet during the hayfever season to help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, as they can contribute to congestion.
Still unsure if your child has hayfever? Ask your questions in the comment section below. Or if you have any good tips which help your child deal with their hayfever symptoms, I would love to hear them.