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 Medical Self-Care: Childhood Hay Fever 
 
Hay fever affects your nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. These body parts make up the upper respiratory tract. Your child gets hay fever when he or she is allergic to something in the air. (Things you are allergic to are called allergens.) Babies usually are allergic to dust or some food. Older children and adults are usually allergic to dust or pollen.

Hay fever symptoms include itchy watery eyes, runny nose, stuffed up nose, and sneezing. Hay fever is most common in spring and fall, but some people have it all year.

You can try to keep your child away from things that give him or her hay fever. Talk to your child’s doctor if that doesn’t help. The doctor may prescribe any of these medicines:

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • nasal sprays
  • eye drops

It’s best to give your child what the doctor tells you to. He or she may tell you to use an over-the-counter medicine. But don’t try over-the-counter medicines on your own.

Antihistamines block the action of histamine. Histamine is something your body makes when you are exposed to an allergen. Histamine causes many allergic symptoms. Give your child an antihistamine 30 minutes before he or she goes outside. Be careful with antihistamines you buy without a prescription. They can make your child drowsy. This can make it harder for your child to do school work or drive a car.

Decongestants shrink the blood vessels in the nose. They usually won’t make your child sleepy.

Your child’s doctor may prescribe nasal sprays with cromolyn sodium or steroids. He or she may suggest allergy shots if your child’s hay fever is very bad. First, your child takes a skin test. Then your child gets shots that have a tiny bit of the allergen. The shots help your child’s body get used to the allergen, so they won’t be so sensitive.

Questions to Ask

Is this true?
  • Your child can’t breathe or speak.
Yes: Seek Care
No
Does your child have a lot of trouble breathing?Is your child wheezing?Yes:See Doctor
No
Does your child have signs of an infection?
  • Fever
  • Thick, discolored mucus or spit
  • Headache or muscle aches
Yes:Call Doctor
No
Does your child still have hay fever symptoms even when he or she stays away from allergens?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Is hay fever making it hard for your child to do things at home or at school?Yes:Call Doctor
No
Self-Care

Self-Care Tips

Try to keep your child away from things that give them hay fever:

  • Keep windows and doors shut, and keep your child inside when the pollen count or humidity is high. Early morning is sometimes the worst.
  • Put an air conditioner or air cleaner in your house, especially in your child’s bedroom. Electronic air filters are better than mechanical ones. Be sure to clean the filter often. You can also try a doctor-approved air purifier in your child’s room.
  • Try to keep dust, mold, and pollen away from your child. Dust is everywhere. Here are some tips for getting rid of dust:
    • Dust and vacuum your home often.
    • Wash rugs.
    • Don’t hang sheets and blankets outside to dry. Pollen can get on them.
    • Have your child bathe and wash his or her hair after being near dust, pollen, etc.
    • Take carpets and drapes out of your child’s bedroom. Cover your child’s mattress with a plastic cover.
    • Try to keep your child away from stuffed animals. They collect dust.
    • Don’t have pets, or keep your pets outside the house.
    • Don’t buy feather pillows.
    • Don’t smoke. Don’t let people smoke near your child.
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