About hay fever

Hay fever is a type of allergic reaction. It happens when pollens and dust mites in the air get into your nose and eyes, which can cause inflammation. It usually affects the nose, face, sinus passages, eyes and throat.

Seasonal hay fever happens when your child has an allergy to pollens. These are small particles released into the air by particular grasses or trees. Your child breathes these pollens in, and they irritate the lining of his eyes, sinuses and nasal passages.

Perennial hay fever happens all year round and is caused by other triggers. These could be dust mites in the house, animal fur or hair, and mould spores. If your child gets hay fever all year round, she’s probably allergic to one of these triggers.

Hay fever is quite common. Around 15% of Australians get it.

Your child has a greater chance of having hay fever if you, your child’s other parent or your other children have an allergy. Teenagers are more likely to get hay fever than younger children.

Hay fever is also called allergic rhinitis.

Hay fever symptoms

Common symptoms of hay fever include:

  • runny nose and sniffing
  • blocked nose
  • mouth breathing
  • sneezing
  • itchy eyes, nose, roof of the mouth and back of the throat
  • red, sore and watery eyes.

Hay fever isn’t usually serious. But if your child is very sensitive to pollens in the air, he can develop other symptoms like wheezing, hives and rashes, especially eczema.

Hay fever can also lead to poor-quality sleep, tiredness and poor concentration during the daytime.

Does your child need to see a doctor about hay fever?

You should take your child to the GP if you’re worried about her hay fever symptoms, or the symptoms get in the way of your child’s daily life.

Tests for hay fever

Your GP might send your child to an allergist for allergy testing. This might help your GP work out what substances are causing the hay fever.

These tests might change the hay fever treatment your child receives.

Hay fever treatment

There’s no cure for hay fever, so treatment aims to manage symptoms.

Antihistamines can help with itching, runny nose and sneezing, but they don’t usually work for a blocked nose. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, although newer types generally don’t have this side effect.

Corticosteroid nose sprays are the best treatment for hay fever, especially for a blocked nose. Your child can use them safely throughout the pollen season for seasonal hay fever, or throughout the year for perennial hay fever.

Be careful about using non-steroid nose sprays. If your child uses them too much for more than 5-7 days, it can block his nose again and dry out the inside of his nose.

For severe hay fever that won’t go away, your doctor might consider sending your child to a specialist for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is also known as desensitisation, and involves giving your child gradually bigger doses of an allergen for 3-6 months to desensitise her. This treatment aims to change the body’s immune system and switch off the allergy.

Hay fever prevention

Prevention is a big part of hay fever treatment.

Try to avoid directly exposing your child to pollens during spring and early summer. For example, if your child is playing outside on warm and windy days, you can expect him to have worse symptoms.

If your child is allergic to house dust mites or animal fur, try to reduce her exposure to these allergens.