It's peak hay fever season and for the estimated 20% of the UK population that suffer with it, the summer months can be a bit miserable, especially on warm, humid and windy days. It's really hard as a parent to watch your little one suffer and be unsure which medications are safe and how you can best help your child cope with their symptoms.
We get plenty of questions about hay fever at our Mini First Aid classes. So here are some answers to our most common questions along with a few tips on how best to treat hay fever, as well as the medicines you can give to children and take if you are pregnant.
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Pollen is a fine powder from plants.
What are the main symptoms?
- sneezing and coughing
- a runny or blocked nose
- itchy, red or watery eyes
- itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
- loss of smell
- pain around your temples and forehead
- feeling tired
If you have asthma, you might also:
- have a tight feeling in your chest
- be short of breath
- have a wheezy cough
How can I tell the difference between hay fever and a common cold?
Hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.
Top tips for treatment at home
There is no cure hay fever (for now) and you cannot prevent it. Here are some ways to ease your symptoms:
- put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
- wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
- shower and change your clothes after you've been outside to wash pollen off
- stay indoors whenever possible
- keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
- buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter
- cut grass or walk on grass
- spend too much time outside
- keep fresh flowers in the house
- smoke or be around smoke as it makes your symptoms worse
- dry clothes outside – they can catch pollen in the fibres
- let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors
Speak to your pharmacist if you have hay fever. They can give advice and suggest the best treatments, including antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.
What medicine can I give my children?
Cetirizine tablets and liquid that you buy from pharmacies and supermarkets can be taken by adults and children aged 6 and older. Cetirizine is a medicine which is also called by the brand names Benadryl Allergy, Piriteze and Zirtek.
The liquid may be easier for children to take than tablets/capsules. The liquid medicine will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you don't have a syringe or spoon, ask your pharmacist for one. DO NOT use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.
Children over the age of 2 can also take liquid cetirizine for hay fever and skin allergies. Cetirizine can also be taken under medical supervision by children aged 1 year and older.
If you or your child has been prescribed cetirizine, follow your doctor's instructions about how and when to take it. If you have bought cetirizine from a pharmacy or shop, follow the instructions that come with the packet.
Always ask your pharmacist for advice as cetirizine is not suitable for some people.
Can I take hay fever medicine during pregnancy?
It depends on the medicine. During pregnancy, you can take some hay fever medicines but not others because there is not enough evidence on their safety. Although you can buy many hay fever medicines over the counter, we would always recommend asking your pharmacist or GP for advice, (you can do this by phone) before taking any medicine when you're pregnant. He/she will assess your symptoms and the benefits of taking a medicine against the risk of any side effects.
For further information and advice about hay fever, go to Allergy UK
Thank you to NHS Choices for information.
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