Hayfever, as most of us know, hay fever often begins in the teenage years but it’s increasingly common for younger children to develop symptoms of hay fever, even toddlers.

What is hay fever?

It’s an allergic response. Often to house dust-mites, animal fur or, of course, pollen. This causes the cells in the nose to overreact and produce histamines that inflame the nose (when it’s called rhinitis) or the eyes (when it’s called conjunctivitis). However it emerges, hay fever makes children miserable and stresses out siblings and parents. So how do you handle it when your little one is suffering?

Managing hay fever at home

There are many practical measures you can take to reduce the symptoms of hay fever, such as.

  • listening to the pollen forecast and keeping hay fever prone children indoors when the pollen count is high.
  • having a ‘hay fever’ box. Which you and your nanny keep well stocked with magazines, toys and craft items so that indoor days are as exciting as outdoor ones.
  • keeping windows closed in the early morning and early evening. Especially car windows on the school run. This is when pollen levels are their highest.
  • washing your child’s face whenever they come in from outdoors to remove pollen that may have adhered to their skin and change their clothes too.
  • buying good wraparound sunglasses and ensuring they are allowed to wear them at school.
  • not drying your child’s clothes outdoors on a high pollen day as spores can get trapped in the clothing.
  • applying petroleum jelly to the inside of your child’s nostrils to trap pollen spores before they are inhaled.
  • perhaps the most obvious action of all – don’t have cut flowers in your house because they can exacerbate a tendency to hay fever.

Hay fever treatments

Many hay fever treatments are not suitable for children so ensure that you see a GP before choosing anything to treat your child. Most popular are non-drowsy antihistamines like Cetirizine which is appropriate for children over two years old. Remember that even the ‘non-drowsy’ treatments can make children sleepy for the first few days. So allow for this when planning activities. Many families decide to introduce antihistamines on a Friday evening so that a child has a weekend to acclimatise.

Two forms of nose-drops may be useful. The ones containing antihistamines are effective but have a bitter taste that many children find difficult. Steroid nose drops are available on prescription for children over six and they work well. Although you do have to remember to begin using them a fortnight before the pollen season starts. Eye drops reduce the tired, gritty feeling. But young children in particular can object strongly to having either eye or nose drops.

All these treatments can be useful but require dedicated use. Some children find the medicine worse than the condition. It can help if your nanny administers eye drops rather than you, as that gives your child someone to run to for comfort.

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