Telling the difference between hay fever and a cold can be tricky, as children will often have very similar symptoms. Both of these conditions can leave your child with a runny or blocked nose and make them cough or sneeze frequently. It can be particularly confusing if your child has asthma, since an allergy to pollen can trigger their asthma symptoms. You won’t know whether you are listening to a viral wheeze due to a chest infection or an asthmatic wheeze caused by the pollen allergy. However, the causes and treatments for these conditions are very different, so it is important to know which one you are dealing with.


Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen that needs to be treated with antihistamines or corticosteroids to prevent inflammation. It can also help to keep an eye on the pollen count and keep your child indoors when it gets too high.

A summer cold or flu is usually caused by a viral infection, although it may sometimes be bacterial. The best remedies are time and rest, with plenty of fluids and infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms.

It Might Be Hay Fever If:

  • Your child’s eyes are red, sore or itchy

  • The symptoms often appear after playing outside or only in an area where a particular plant is growing

  • The symptoms last for several weeks or months and only appear during the spring or summer, when plants are flowering

It Could Be a Cold If:

  • Your child has a fever or other symptoms of viral infection such as vomiting, diarrhoea, earache, a sore throat or a chesty cough

  • You may hear a viral wheeze even if your child doesn’t have asthma, although it can be worse in children who are also asthmatic

  • The symptoms improve after a few days and are gone completely within a week or two

If you think that your child has hay fever or you need advice on managing symptoms such as fever and viral wheeze, you should see your doctor. It is also important to seek advice if you suspect that your child has asthma, as this can be more serious than a pollen allergy or a summer cold.

Professor Parviz Habibi Available At

The New Malden Diagnostic Centre

171 Clarence Avenue, Surrey, KT3 3TX

The Portland Hospital Out Patient Centre

205-209 Great Portland, Street London, W1W 5AH