Kids Health Info

Hay fever

  • Hay fever is the common name for a condition called allergic rhinitis, which means an allergy that mainly affects the nose. Hay fever can occur all year round. However, your nose is not the only organ that can be affected by allergic rhinitis - so can your eyes, throat, sinuses and ears.

    Signs and symptoms

    Some of the symptoms of hay fever include:

    • frequent bouts of sneezing
    • a runny nose
    • blocked nose (either one or both nostrils)
    • itchy ears, nose, throat and roof of the mouth
    • red, itchy, swollen and/or watery eyes
    • headaches.

    If hay fever is left untreated it can lead to poor quality sleep, tiredness and daytime sleepiness. Severe hay fever can also:

    • make asthma more difficult to control
    • increase the chance of sinus infections
    • affect learning and performance in children
    • lead to bad breath, a husky voice and/or a sore throat
    • create more frequent eye infections because people rub itchy eyes.


    Hay fever is triggered by what we breathe in. The small hairs and mucus in the nose trap dust, pollens and other tiny particles. A person with hay fever is allergic to some of the particles that get trapped in the nose.

    Triggers include:

    • pollen (from grasses, flowers and trees)
    • dust mites
    • animal fur or hair (dander)
    • mould spores
    • cigarette smoke.

    When someone has hay fever all year round (called perennial allergic rhinitis), they are usually allergic to dust mites, animal fur and/or mould spores.


    The best treatment is to identify what causes your child's allergic reaction and then try to avoid, or at least minimise, contact with it. Other options include medication and immunotherapy.

    Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as a pet, however sometimes your child may need to see a doctor to identify the particular allergen/s. The doctor will ask questions and may suggest allergy tests (such as skin prick tests) to identify the cause.

    Hay fever cannot be cured, but there are a number of ways you can improve the symptoms and give your child some relief. Preventive measures play an important role in the treatment of hay fever.

    Your doctor may suggest using medication to help relieve your child's symptoms such as:

    • non-sedating antihistamines
    • nasal sprays may be useful for older children.

    Your doctor or pharmacist can give advice on which may be best for your child.

    Specific allergen immunotherapy is a long term treatment that usually involves injections of allergen extracts. Talk to your doctor if your child has serious allergic reactions.

    Key points to remember

    • Hay fever is an allergic reaction and is most common in spring.
    • Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs all year round.
    • Avoiding triggers is the best way to reduce the frequency of hay fever attacks.

    For more information

    Better Health Channel
    ASCIA - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 
    Asthma Queensland
    Parenting and Child Health


    Developed by the RCH Dept of Quality and Improvement. First published in November, 2008. Updated December 2010

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.