Ask the Expert: How do I treat my child's hay fever?
Q: "My eight-year-old son started with hay fever last year, and as the pollen season is about to begin, can you tell me how best to help him and what medication he can take?"
A: Dr Robert Boyle, a consultant paediatric allergist at the Harley Street Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK, says: "There are three approaches to managing hay fever. The first is to avoid the pollens or spores that trigger symptoms – this depends on an accurate allergy diagnosis, and involves modifications to the environment, especially air filtration devices, and may also include some changes in behaviour or activities to reduce exposure.
"The second is to take medications to reduce the immune response to the pollen or spores. Often a combination of medications is required, as each one is quite specific in what it does. Antihistamines should be non-drowsy ones, and are useful for itching, sneezing, runny nose or eyes; topical steroid sprays are useful for a blocked nose. These are the most commonly used hay fever medications, and are generally safe for short-term use in children.
"The third approach is immunotherapy, where a tablet or solution containing the relevant allergen is taken daily for several months each year – after a three-year course, there's usually a long-term reduction in hay fever symptoms. Immunotherapy is the only treatment which has long-term benefits, and immunotherapy tablets or drops are a simple and well-tolerated treatment.
"My advice for your son would be to keep a non-drowsy antihistamine syrup handy in case symptoms occur again this summer, and ask your doctor for allergy testing if symptoms are troublesome or not well controlled using antihistamine alone."