'Can babies get hay fever?' is a common query among parents, especially as winter colds should no longer be around thanks to the arrival of warmer weather.
While it may seem like an adult ailment, babies can get show hay fever symptoms 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 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 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, 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 and colds in babies, it's important to look at the wider symptoms. Always contact your GP or call 111 if you're unsure.
How do I know if my baby has hay fever?
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
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.
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
It's important to seek medical advice to get an accurate diagnosis if a baby or young child develops these types of symptoms, 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."
Some other ways you can ease symptoms of hay fever in babies include:
- 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 baby's 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 - especially in the room where your baby sleeps - to prevent pollen from entering the home
- Consider investing in an air purifier to rid pollen from your home
One of the key ways to help reduce discomfort from hay fever is to reduce your baby's exposure. Keeping a symptom diary to identify patterns of exposure will help you work out what triggers hay fever in your baby.
Remember hay fever medication that's sold over the counter is not suitable for babies under 1 - so you cannot give hay fever medication to your baby without talking to your GP first.
Should I take my baby to the doctor if they have hay fever?
If you’re concerned about your baby's hay fever symptoms, 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. You should seek medical advice if:
- Your baby seems very unsettled or unwell
- Your baby's feeding is affected
- Your baby's symptoms have continued longer than a week
And if you've got kids struggling with hay fever, check out these 11 expert-approved cleaning hacks that will help them sleep.
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Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow 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. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.
- Dr SubashiniDirector of Science and wellbeing
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