Babies are a wonder to us all. They are robust enough to deal with first-time parents and yet, they cause us concern over every cough, sneeze, and new behaviour.
You know it is allergy season and the pollen count is climbing, so could your baby have hay fever? How do you tell? What is the right treatment for hay fever in babies? Luckily, this guide is here to answer all of your questions on hay fever and babies.
Signs & symptoms
The most common sign of a pollen allergy is red, itchy, watery eyes. You will probably notice that your baby keeps rubbing their eyes to try and relieve the itching.
Sneezing when outdoors during the Spring and Summer months is also common amongst hay fever sufferers. Your baby may also have a constant runny nose that produces clear, thin mucus, different from that of an infection.
In some cases, the pollen might irritate your baby’s chest and cause a cough to develop. Wheezing, laboured breathing or difficulty breathing can all be signs of a more extreme reaction to pollen and should be monitored closely.
If your baby has asthma, be extra vigilant. Your baby may also develop a skin rash or hives and have itchy skin if they come in contact with grass and other plants.
Your doctor will need to see your baby in person and carry out a medical examination. They will look for physical indicators of hay fever by checking your baby’s breathing, nasal cavity, eyes and skin.
They may also ask for your medical history and that of close relatives to check for any predisposition to allergies. Hay fever is linked to asthma and eczema and may, therefore, be a hereditary condition.
In some cases, your doctor may look to do a skin test to look for reactions to certain allergens. This helps to build a clearer picture of your baby’s sensitivities and allergies. Your doctor needs to make an accurate diagnosis so that you can rule out any other possible causes.
When to see a doctor
See your GP immediately if your child has difficulty breathing or develops sore and itchy hives on their skin. Keep an eye on their breathing if your child is prone to asthma.
Any change should signal that a trip to your GP surgery is best. Always check with your doctor before giving your baby any medicine.
Prevention and treatment
As most medications for hay fever are not suitable for babies, it is important to try and prevent excessive exposure to pollen. If you know that your baby suffers from hay fever, it is a good idea to try and keep them inside on a day with increased wind and a high pollen count.
It is also worth doing this when you or your neighbours cut the grass. You can put a small amount of nasal rub around your baby’s nose to prevent pollen from entering and irritating the nasal cavity.
You should also use a damp, cool cloth to wipe their face and eyes after being outside. Washing your baby before bedtime can also help them get a better night’s sleep and become less agitated. Avoid drying your baby’s bedding and clothes on a washing line outdoors during hay fever season and try and wipe down any pets that you have after they have been outside for any length of time.
If you’re heading out in the car, try re-circulating the air instead of drawing air from outside through the intake. It may also be worth you changing the air filter just before hay fever season. Depending on your baby’s age, you may find that wrap-around sunglasses with elastic to keep them on, will shield their eyes from pollen when you are outdoors.
A great alternative to going to a park would be to go to a beach if you can. That will mean that you can still enjoy being outdoors together and getting fresh air, without excessive pollen.
You may have to turn to medication if your baby’s symptoms are extreme, such as itchy and sore hives on their skin or difficulty breathing. Most hay fever medications are only suitable if your baby is over 12 months old.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, usually occurring when levels are heightened. It is most likely to occur in the Spring and Summer months.
Certain types of hay fever occur at particular points within these seasons.
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is caused by grass, trees, and other plants releasing their pollen into the wind. That pollen is then carried in the air and is inhaled as we breathe. For some, this can cause an allergic reaction which leads to skin, eye, and sinus irritation.
It can also result in breathing difficulties which may only be alleviated by medicine. An allergic reaction to grass pollen is most common and can be triggered when around someone mowing their lawn. In the UK, hay fever season typically runs from May to September.
How do I tell if my baby has hay fever rather than a cold?
It is not always easy to differentiate between hay fever and a cold in babies. The main tell-tale signs are that with hay fever, the symptoms won’t clear up within a few days and your baby will not feel generally run down or have a fever. Take into consideration the time of year and if it is likely that the pollen count is raised.
Symptoms also tend to be at their worst when it’s warm and sunny. It is worth keeping an eye out, online or on the local weather report, for information about the pollen level in your area during the hay fever season if you think your baby may be affected. Most symptoms start to develop when the pollen count is above 50.
Can any baby get hay fever?
Yes, although it is believed to be more common if a close relative also suffers from it.
Babies with asthma and eczema are also more prone to hay fever.