Q. I suffer from hay fever - will my baby inherit it?
A. Not necessarily, says Lindsey McManus of Allergy UK. 'Although allergies can run in families, they're not always inherited. Sometimes, the type of allergy that is passed down to children can be different from the condition the parent has. For example, a mother could have hay fever, but the child might develop eczema.'
Environmental triggers can play a part, too. For example, if your baby is exposed to high doses of pollen when he's born, it may increase his chances of developing hay fever.
Q. From what age can children get hay fever - what symptoms should I look out for?
A. Hay fever can affect even very young children. 'Typical symptoms to look out for include your baby rubbing his eyes because they're itchy, a constant runny nose that is clear rather than thick, and sneezing, particularly if this is happening outdoors,' says Lindsey. Hay fever actually affects sufferers between May and October, as this is when tree and grass pollen is at its highest. If your little one's symptoms also occur outside the hay fever season, then he could have an allergy to dust mites or pet fur rather than hay fever. Open your windows (dust mites hate dry, cold air) and wash his fluffy toys regularly to kill the mites.
Viruses can also cause symptoms similar to hay fever, but there are ways to distinguish between the two, says Lindsey. 'A child suffering from hay fever won't have a temperature, or the general symptoms of being unwell they would have with a cold,' she says. 'Also, the symptoms won't clear up after a few days, as cold symptoms do.' Visit your doctor if you suspect your child has hay fever - it's important it's diagnosed so that it can be treated.
Q. What can I give my child to treat hay fever?
A. 'It will depend on the child's age and their symptoms,' says Dr Rob Hicks, Prima Baby's GP and author of Beat Your Allergies (£12.99, Infinite Ideas). 'Prescribed treatments may include antihistamines, eye drops, and nasal sprays.' There are lots of practical ways to help a child suffering from hay fever, too. 'Washing your baby's face with cool water removes pollen from the face, and wearing a brimmed hat while outside can help,' says Lindsey. 'It's also a good idea to smear a little nasal balm around his nose, to stop pollen getting in. Also change your baby's clothes and wash his hair after you've been outside to remove any trapped pollen,' says Lindsey.
For more tips, visit allergyuk.org.