The summer holidays are finally here, and our children are spending more and more time outside in the sunshine. It can be hard to know whether your little one's summer sniffles are down to a hayfever or a common cold. Hayfever usually affects children from age seven, with older children and teenagers more susceptible than adults.(1) The allergy can be particularly distressing for children, who can find the symptoms harder to manage and often don't ask for help. (1)
When you're trying to spot the difference between a cold and hay fever, take a look out for:
• SEASON: Symptoms of hayfever are generally worse from March to October as different types of pollen are released throughout the summer. Cold symptoms are more likely in winter (1)
• TIME: While symptoms of a common cold generally only last a week or two, hayfever symptoms can last for weeks on end at certain times of the year (2)
• ITCHINESS: Hayfever can cause itchiness of the eyes, ears, mouth and throat. A common cold often causes a sore throat but rarely itchiness (2)
• FEVER: Hayfever will never cause a fever, but a cold can give your little one a high temperature3
• BODY ACHES: If your child is complaining of body aches, you can be fairly certain it's not hayfever - aching muscles can occur with a cold but it's more common with flu (2)
• NOSE: Yellow or green nasal discharge is a sign of a cold developing, whereas with hayfever it tends to remain clear (3)
Why is hay fever increasingly prevalent among children?
One theory, the 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests that allergies are on the rise because we are 'too clean'. Dr Peter Burt, Aerobiologist at the University of Greenwich explains, "The 'hygiene hypothesis; theory suggests that keeping our children more isolated from the outside world and giving them less opportunities to get really dirty has reduced their exposure to a variety of germs, and led to children's immune systems developing less robustly."
When it comes to the increasing prevalence of allergies, diet, lack of exercise, our environment, use of antibiotics and a family history of allergies may also play a role. The latest advice recommends that despite the 'hygiene hypothesis', we shouldn't be relaxing our hygiene standards to try to reduce the risk of developing an allergy.(4) If your child has hay fever symptoms, or you would like advice on how best to manage their allergies head to Boots UK where a pharmacist will be able to help.
1. NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/hayfever/Pages/Hayfeverandchildren.aspx
2. Web MD, http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/common-cold-or-allergy-symptoms
3. NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/coldsandflu/Pages/Fivefactsaboutcolds.aspx
4. NHS Choices, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene/Pages/are-we-too-clean-for-our-own-good.aspx