A simple cold or a pollen allergy – could your child have hay fever?
Click here for details on how to spot hay fever in your child.
If you’ve got kids it seems like one of them always has a cold or runny nose, but have you considered whether it could be a seasonal allergy?
How to tell if your child has hay fever
When is a sneeze not a sneeze? With pollen season up-and-running, it’s important to know whether your child could be suffering from hay fever, so you can take steps to reduce their symptoms and exposure to allergens.
1. How do I tell the difference between a cold and hay fever?
The symptoms of hay fever can look a lot like a common cold or other types of allergies. Your child may have a runny nose with clear mucus, congestion, itchy or watery eyes, itching ears, and a scratchy throat, but they will not run a fever. Hay fever usually occurs from spring to early autumn, and an easy way to spot the difference is to look for how long symptoms last. A viral cold tends to last only a week or two, whereas hay fever can linger for many months. If your child has a constant runny nose and is sneezing daily for part of the year (but not winter), it's a sign they may have a seasonal allergy.
2. When is hay fever season exactly?
New Zealand’s grass allergy season runs from around August/September all the way through to March, and many people who are allergic to grass are allergic to more than one species. Frustratingly for sufferers, this means symptoms can go on for around nine months every year.
2. Can young children and babies get hay fever?
Hay fever can affect children of all ages, but most often starts after the age of seven. Many experts believe that children under three are unlikely to suffer from hay fever because they spend most of their time indoors. If your child is younger then it’s important to also consider whether they may be allergic to something other than pollen, like pet fur, mould or dust mites.
3. I think my child has hay fever, what should I do?
It’s important to have hay fever diagnosed by your doctor so you can explore different treatment options (usually antihistamines in tablet, liquid or nasal spray form). This also means you and your child can take steps to avoid or lesson the severity of the symptoms during hay fever season.
4. How can I prevent or lessen hay fever symptoms?
Hay fever symptoms are usually worse first thing in the morning and in the early evening. This is because pollen is released from plants early in the morning and rises above our heads as the air warms up. As the air cools in the evening, the pollen comes back down. Symptoms also tend to be worse on warm and sunny days.
To reduce your child’s exposure to pollen:
• Lessen the amount pollen entering your child’s eyes by having them wear wraparound sunglasses
• Smear petroleum jelly around the inside of your child’s nose to trap pollen and stop it being inhaled
• Wash your child’s hair, face and hands when they come back indoors and change their clothes.
• Don't let them play in fields or large areas of grass
• Keep the car windows shut when driving
• Keep windows closed at night so pollen doesn’t enter the house
• Learn to identify the plants that your child is allergic to. Find out where these plants are located and their usual habitat as well as what time of year they pollinate. Then avoid!
5. So what is pollen anyway?
Most plants produce pollen as part of their reproductive process. Pollen grains are tiny, roundish structures that contain and transport the male sex cells of flowering plants. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not flowers that are the primary culprits of pollen allergies, because they usually get insects to do the dirty work of pollination. It’s the wind-pollinators: trees and shrubs that send clouds of pollen into the air (and up our noses) that are the biggest culprits.
Thanks to allergy.org.nz and babycentre.co.uk for assistance with this article.
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