What is hay fever?

Hay fever is a common condition also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. It affects around 1 in 5 people in the UK and is more likely to affect people who suffer from asthma and eczema.

It is an allergic condition where the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance that is usually harmless. With hay fever the substance is a fine powder called pollen. There are several types of pollen e.g. grass pollen, weed pollen, tree pollen and they are produced at different times of the year.

When the cells in the lining of the nose and eyes come into contact with pollen a chemical called histamine is released. This causes inflammation in the nose and eyes, and sometimes the sinuses and throat can also be affected.

Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, blocked or runny nose
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Itchy throat, nose, mouth and ears
  • Headaches and sinus pain
  • Tiredness

Asthma symptoms, such as wheezes and breathlessness, may get worse if you already have asthma. Some people have asthma symptoms only during the hay fever season.

There’s currently no cure for hay fever and you can’t prevent it. The first principle of treating allergy is avoidance.

Tips for avoidance

  • If possible, stay indoors when the pollen count is high.
  • Pollen levels are at their highest in the morning, rising with the warming air, and again in the evening when it’s cooling down. Keep windows and doors closed during these times.
  • Don’t hang clothes out to dry as they may pick up pollen.
  • Use petroleum jelly around your nostrils to trap pollen.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses.
  • Shower and change when you come indoors to wash pollen off.
  • Avoid large grassy areas, woodland, cutting the grass, pollutants and car fumes.

Ask your pharmacist

Over the counter medicines can help to relieve symptoms and you pharmacist will be able to offer advice on the most suitable treatment:

  • Oral antihistamines
  • Nasal preparations (antihistamine/steroid nasal sprays)
  • Oral decongestants
  • Eye preparations
  • Simple pain relief

See your GP if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if your symptoms are not relieved by over the counter treatments in combination with measures to reduce your exposure to pollen contact your GP or Practice Nurse.

Pollen Count

To check the pollen count in your area, check out the Met Office’s pollen forecast for five days ahead, helping you stay one step ahead of your hay fever this summer.

More information on hay fever is available here:

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Page last updated 29 June 2022