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Hay fever and exams – keeping symptoms under control

Hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is often perceived as trivial but the reality is very different for children living with this type of allergy during the exam season. 

Hay fever can make school life difficult for young people, particularly when it comes to taking exams which are commonly during the summer months, specifically during the grass pollen season which affects the majority of those with hay fever. Exams periods can be stressful enough without the added pressure and disruption that comes from distracting symptoms such as sneezing, an itchy, blocked or runny nose, or even itchy, inflamed and streaming eyes. These symptoms can also lead to disrupted sleep which impacts on alertness and the ability to concentrate. The symptoms are often unpleasant but in an exam environment, they can be extremely difficult to manage.

It is common for children with asthma to also have hay fever. If this is the case then it is important that hay fever symptoms are well managed with the correct treatments and medication, as there is an increased risk that uncontrolled hay fever may impact on asthma, exacerbating asthma symptoms and increasing the risk of an asthma attack.  

Hay fever can impact on all aspects of daily life and persist for months at a time and studies have shown that 40% children[1] can actually drop a grade between mocks and final exams because of their hay fever. 

Allergy UK has provided the following tips to help your child get through the exam season: 

  • Use a daily non-sedating anti-histamine which come in both liquid and tablet form.
  • Monitor pollen forecasts during exam time which can help guide when to start taking allergy medications (two weeks before the pollen counts are predicted to be high or your known pollen season depending on which pollens are a problem) and can help with planning time spent outside.
  • If you do drive children to school on exam days, keep windows closed and the air intake on re-circulate to prevent pollen exposure inside.
  • Invest in a pair of wraparound sunglasses and a hat for your child to keep allergens out of their eyes/off of their face when they are outside.
  • Help your child get a good night’s sleep by keeping windows and doors closed overnight in their bedroom. Make sure they wash their hair/face and change their clothes before they get into bed so that pollen is not transferred onto their bed sheets/pillow.
  • Apply an effective allergen barrier balm around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens
  • If you have a pet that likes to be outside, consider keeping them away from your child during exam time as they can carry pollen on their fur.
  • If you have any concerns in the lead up to the exams speak to your child’s school as they may be able to make special arrangements.

If you or your child is struggling to cope with hay fever symptoms despite following the guidance above, please speak to your GP about other forms of treatment. Alternatively, you could speak to one of our Helpline Advisors for further information on how to keep symptoms under control. 

Call the Allergy UK Helpline on 01322 619898 or visit our website: www.allergyuk.org to find more useful resources and access further support.

[1] Walker S, Khan-Wasti S, Fletcher M, Cullinan P, Harris J, Sheikh A. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007

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