Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is common in children as well as adults and is an allergy that is triggered by breathing in dust mites, pollens, animal fur (dander) and other tiny particles that get trapped in the nose.
Although hay fever commonly occurs in spring and summer and is associated with pollen allergy, some symptoms persist all year round (perennial hay fever).
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is caused when the body reacts to common allergens such as pollen, dust mites or mould.
One of the most common seasonal allergens is grass pollen but weed pollen can also cause the allergic reaction associated with hay fever. With perennial hay fever, the symptoms occur all year-round and are the result of common household allergens.
Hay fever symptoms
If your child suffers from allergic rhinitis they may experience the below common symptoms:
- frequent sneezing
- a runny nose
- nasal congestion in one or both nostrils
- sore throat
- itchy roof of the mouth
- itchy and watery eyes
When hay fever symptoms are left untreated, it can lead to poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness in children.
In serious cases, a child's hay fever can also:
- make asthma harder to control with inhalers
- increase the chance of respiratory infections
- affect your child's learning and performance due to poor quality sleep
- cause more frequent eye infections due to itchy eyes
How does hay fever affect sleep?
Hay fever symptoms can affect all aspects of your child's sleep which can lead to mood swings due to sleep deprivation.
Children who suffer from seasonal hay fever are more likely to suffer from sleep issues such as:
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Struggling to stay asleep
- Sleep apnea
- Sinus pain
- Daytime fatigue
The severity of allergies and these symptoms depends on how bad your child's hay fever symptoms are.
For some children with hay fever, difficulty sleeping can lead to other sleep problems such as wetting the bed, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and breathing issues.
Tips to sleep better with hay fever
How can I help my child with allergies sleep?
Sleeping with allergy symptoms can be difficult for children, but it is possible. Below are some top tips to help your little one manage their allergic rhinitis and keep sleep disturbances at bay.
Try Air Purifier
Air purifiers can help improve sleep for children with allergic conditions. Because they help to clear your child's room of common household allergens such as dust mites they can help to relieve symptoms associated with your child's allergies.
Close doors and windows
When you leave doors and windows open in hot weather, or on days with high pollen count, you are inviting those allergens into your home. Although it can be tempting to air out the home in hot weather, if your child suffers from hay fever you should consider keeping your doors and windows closed to keep allergens at bay.
Shower or bath before bedtime
Children love being outdoors in warm weather, and rightly so - being outdoors is a fantastic way for them to get regular exercise and Vitamin D.
When they come inside from playing in the garden, they often bring with them pollen and dust on their clothes and on their skin and hair.
A shower or bath before bed can help them to wash away those allergens and help them to sleep better.
Use a nasal spray
Using a saline nasal spray before bed is helpful for when your little one's nasal passages are congested or when they start sneezing due to their allergies.
Saline nasal sprays work to wash out any allergens stuck in their nose and provide gentle relief for a stuffy nose in children.
Nasal sprays can be used as a long-term solution for your child or on an as and when basis and the great thing about them are that they can be used in any position your child likes because they are designed to be sprayed at a variety of angles.
For hay fever, it is recommended that for best results you start using a nasal spray a week or two before you think your little one's symptoms will start.
Try antihistamine tablets or liquids
Antihistamine tablets can help to relieve symptoms of hay fever in children which can help them to sleep better.
There are two main groups of antihistamines that you can give to your child - one makes your child sleepy and the other is a non-drowsy formula.
Both groups are just as effective as the other for relieving allergy symptoms but if you're unsure which one is best consult your doctor or pharmacist.
Keep your furniture free from dust
You wouldn't believe the amount of dust that collects in the nooks and crannies throughout your home. No matter how much you try and keep your property clean, some furniture items can attract dust mites more than others.
This includes heavy drapes, upholstered furniture & carpet. Whenever possible, avoid items that collect dust in the bedroom such as artificial flowers, cuddly toys & old books.
Keep pets out of the bedroom
Pet dander is one of the most common allergens that negatively impact sleep in children. While it can be tempting to let your dog or cat sleep in the same room as your child, it won't help with their seasonal allergies.
Instead, try keeping your household pet in a different room from your child and get them to pet them goodnight instead of having them sleep on their bed. Just remember to get your child to wash their hands after to avoid any dander sticking.
Take clothes off after being outside for long periods
If your child has been playing outside all day, especially on high pollen count days, you should ensure that when they come in they change their clothes immediately and pop them straight in the laundry basket.
Additionally, on high pollen count days, you should dry your laundry indoors to stop allergens from sticking to the clothes.
Speak to your doctor
If over-the-counter medications aren't working and you think that your little one may be suffering from severe hay fever then your doctor may be able to prescribe them some different medications that can help to provide relief.