When the summer sun is high in the sky, we all feel better and have more energy. That is, of course, unless you are one of those unfortunate people for whom summer means just one thing – hayfever. For kids, it can be even worse as all they want to do is play outside and enjoy the warm weather but their own bodies work against them. So what can be done to help children with hayfever?
Hayfever typically started when kids are around seven years old and is worst from this age until they are in their teens. Others retain the sensitivity into their adult years. The symptoms are familiar to all of us, whether as suffers ourselves or seeing someone who is – sore and itchy eyes and a runny nose, sometimes the eyes, as well as lots of sneezing. Nose bleeds are a common symptom as the lining of the nose is scratched and rubbed.
Hayfever season can start as early as March and finish as late as October and the symptoms are easy to confuse with a virus – the main way to tell the different is the length of time involved. Normally a virus will last a week or two but if symptoms continue longer than this, it is more likely that the child is suffering from hayfever.
Hayfever is properly called rhinitis and comes in two forms. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is the condition we know as hayfever, while perennial allergic rhinitis is the condition that comes on all year round and isn’t triggered by the season. The latter are the kids who are often thought to have a cold all of the time but are often reacting to an allergen, something that triggers an allergy.
Around two thirds of sufferers of hayfever also experience problems sleeping due to the condition. Nicknamed ‘insneezia’ this is the symptoms normally experienced during the day breaking up sleep on a night as the allergens settle in the cooling air. This can range from itchy eyes and a blocked nose to waking up sneezing.
Having the hayfever diagnosed by your doctor is an important step to dealing with the condition. This is primarily in case the cause of the condition isn’t hayfever but an allergy to something else the child is encountering.
It is also important to find out whether the child has the seasonal or perennial type of the condition. This is because there are some other nasty symptoms that can accompany the perennial version that need to be watched out for. These include sinusitis, where the cavities within the skull fill with fluid and cause pain and infection. Younger kids can also get glue ear from this that can result in temporary hearing loss.
Usually, diagnosis by a doctor will involve a few tests such as an examination of the nose to see what is causing the allergy and if hayfever is to blame. On occasions, an in-depth examination may be needed.
The most common trigger of hayfever is allergens from grass, trees and plants. This seems to effect kids while at school, due to the proximity to school fields. Some sufferers are affected by a certain type of pollen and have a ‘season’ during which they suffer. Others can be sensitive to a range of allergens and therefore have the symptoms during the entire year.
People with an allergy to tree pollen such as birch trees tend to find their conditions are worst in the spring while those allergic to grass pollens are worst in the summer. Others can be effected by moulds, which result in symptoms all year around.
Treatment for hayfever is crucial for kids to be able to make the most of spring and summer and minimalize their suffering from the allergens. If left untreated, it can even lead to other serious conditions such as asthma and could lead to the child being afraid to go outside due to the discomfort they experience
Treatment starts with medication. These include nasal steroid sprays and drops that treat the inflammation caused by the condition without absorbing very much of the drug into the system. Eye drops are also an important part of treating kids with hayfever. It is best to administered these when kids are lying down, adding a drop to each eye and letting the blink reflex do the rest.
Of the medication normally given, antihistamines are the most well known and can be bought from shops and pharmacies without prescription. Some can make users drowsy but most will state on the packaging if they are non-drowsy. There are tablet form but also liquids or syrups for younger kids and a pharmacist can offer their advice if you are unsure which type is right for your child.
Advice for preventing symptoms
Over the years, hayfever sufferers have tried all sorts of ways to ease the symptoms of the condition and some have proven to be quite effective. These include staying indoors until after noon where possible to reduce the exposure to the allergen and wearing sunglasses to help protect the eyes. Many people avoid going outside when grass is being cut, particularly in their own garden and avoiding being outside on windy days or in the aftermath of a thunderstorm when there is a higher amount of allergens in the air. When your kids come home, consider either bathing their eyes with a wet washer or even having a shower to clear away any pollen that may have adhered to them while travelling home.
Some families have planted low allergen plants I their gardens while others have found and removed any plants that their child is particularly sensitive to. Keep the windows closed in their bedroom and when driving in the car and use re-circulating options on the air conditioning to stop the allergen getting into the car in the first place. Parents have also found that hanging clothes up to dry in the house stops pollen from collecting on them to then be worn or put on the bed of a hayfever sufferer.