Can babies get hay fever? Symptoms to look out for and how to treat them

Can babies get hay fever? Find out below...

Woman trying to wipe baby's nose
(Image credit: Getty / Future)

‘Can babies get hay fever?’ is a common query among parents, especially when winter colds should no longer be around as the warmer months creep in.

While it may seem like an adult ailment, babies can get hay fever too. Classed as an allergy, hay fever is one of the four most common allergies in children - alongside food allergies, eczema, and asthma. 

Margaret Kelman, Head of Clinical Services for Allergy UK explains, “Your child is more more likely to suffer from hay fever if other close family members have allergies.”

And, while there are plenty of hay fever remedies and cheap hay fever tablets (opens in new tab) available, not everything is right for a baby. Just knowing if your baby could have hay fever, and identifying what the symptoms are, could help you spot if your little one is allergic to pollen so you can ease their symptoms. 

Can babies get hay fever?

 “Yes, babies and young children can be affected by hay fever,” Margaret tells us. She goes on to explain that hay fever symptoms in babies are often missed, as they are, “similar to those of a common cold”. 

“Typically babies and young children are likely to experience symptoms of hay fever during the pollen seasons in spring and summer months, depending on the pollen trigger. However in young children, these symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other conditions or illnesses including the common cold or teething.  We always suggest that if there is any doubt, people shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical advice.” 

Dr Subashini (opens in new tab), Director of Science and Clinical Lead at Holland and Barrett agrees and tells us the main difference between a cold and hay fever symptoms in babies is that hay fever "does not generally come with a temperature or a fever as a cold might,".

Much like hay fever in adults, it's nothing to worry about. But much like all conditions that affect babies, from milk spots to coughs in babies, it's important to look at the wider symptoms. Always contact your GP or call 111 if you're unsure.

Symptoms of hay fever in babies

  • Itchy watery eyes or rubbing the eyes
  • runny nose with clear watery mucous
  • frequent sneezing especially when outside
  • Stuffy nose
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Irritability

Signs and symptoms of hay fever are similar in babies and children to those in adults. It’s also most common between March and October, just like with adults. 

It might be a sign that your baby is suffering from hay fever instead of just a common cold if their symptoms get worse in warm, sunny weather - and don’t clear up quickly like a cold.

Dr Subashini explains that in the UK, hay fever symptoms are mostly triggered by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, as well as environmental moulds. “Hay fever is at its peak between April and September, but your child may suffer for a shorter period if they are only allergic to a particular type of pollen. The time of year of your symptoms flare up can give you an idea of which type of pollen you’re reacting to”, she says. 

  • February to June – tree pollen
  • May to July – grass pollen (the most common hay fever trigger) 
  • June to September – weed pollen

Infographic of cold or hayfever symptoms

(Image credit: Stephanie Lowe)

It's important to seek medical advice to get an accurate diagnosis if a baby or young child develops these types of symptoms as it's important to rule out asthma or other medical conditions which may require prescription medication.

How to treat hay fever in babies

Margaret suggests that parents monitor and be aware of the daily pollen forecast. “It might help if parents can reduce the time your baby spends outside during peak hay fever times.” Other suggestions; 

  • Put a hat with a brim on your baby and if possible encourage them to wear wrap-around sunglasses to reduce pollen exposure
  • Apply a baby friendly balm around the base of the nose to trap pollens
  • Use saline drops to washout any  pollens that may be caught up the nose
  • Wash your babies face with cool water after being outside to remove pollen from the face
  • Change your baby's clothes and wash your baby's hair after you've been outside to remove any trapped pollen
  • Give pets who've been outside a wipe-down to get rid of pollen in their fur
  • Try to avoid drying clothes and bedding outside on high pollen days, this is to prevent trapped pollen being brought indoors
  • Keep your doors and windows closed
  • If symptoms are severe seek advice from your GP or health visitor

One way to help is to reduce baby's exposure. Keeping a symptom diary to identify patterns of exposure will help you work out what triggers his hay fever.

If you’re still concerned consult your GP. They will ask if your baby, or anyone else in the family, has asthma, eczema or other allergies, as this gives a higher risk of hay fever. If you can’t get an appointment with your GP, visit a pharmacist who will also be able to recommend suitable treatments and medications for your baby or toddler.

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Dr Subashini

Dr Subashini attended medical school at the University of Glasgow and held various roles at NHS hospitals around the UK for eight years before taking up a Clinical Research Fellowship at Imperial College London. She is now a Clinical Lead at Holland & Barrett and has various board roles including with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Suba has experience in implementing value-based healthcare, healthcare commissioning, research and wellbeing.

Stephanie Lowe
Stephanie Lowe

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodTo covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. With his love of choo-choos, Hey Duggee and finger painting he keeps her on her toes.

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