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Hay fever

The best way to manage hay fever is to check the pollen forecast and try to avoid exposure to pollen.

There are lots of ways to minimise exposure and ease your hay fever symptoms. Read more...

What is hay fever and what causes it?

Hay fever is a common allergic condition. It is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. When these tiny particles come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they can irritate them and trigger an allergic reaction.

During an allergic reaction the body releases a number of chemicals. These chemicals then cause the symptoms of hay fever, such as watering eyes and a runny nose.

Hay fever is also called seasonal allergic rhinitis because symptoms tend to occur at the same time, or in the same season, each year.

You can have an allergy to:
•  Tree pollen, released during spring
•  Grass pollen, released at the end of spring and beginning of summer
•  Weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

•  Frequent sneezing
•  Runny or blocked nose
•  Itchy, red or watery eyes (also known as allergic conjunctivitis)
•  An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.

Less commonly, you may experience:
•  Loss of your sense of smell
•  Facial pain
•  Sweats
•  Headaches

Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and your symptoms may be worse some years than others, depending on the weather conditions and the pollen count. Hay fever symptoms are likely to be worse if the pollen count is high. The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months. Your symptoms may start at different times of the year, depending on which types of pollen you are allergic to.

While symptoms of hay fever may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work.

How do you treat hay fever?

•  Pollen avoidance - Taking steps to minimise your exposure to pollen, such as closing windows, wearing wraparound sunglasses and avoiding grassy areas. Rub a small amount of Vaseline inside lower nostrils, this helps to stop pollen entering the nasal passages.

•  Antihistamines - Antihistamines help block the effects of one of the chemicals released during an allergic reaction. This prevents the symptoms of an allergic reaction occurring.

•  Steroid nasal sprays - Steroid nasal sprays can help reduce levels of inflammation around the eyes and inside the nasal passages.

•  Eye drops - Eye drops containing anti-inflammatory medicines.

Where to go for help and advice

Most cases of hay fever can be treated using medication from a pharmacy or supermarket. By going to the pharmacy you’ll be saving yourself time, freeing up GP appointments for people with more urgent needs as well as doing your bit to help the NHS save money on unnecessary prescription costs. Your local pharmacist can offer you help and advice on which medication is right for you. If your symptoms are more troublesome it may be worth speaking to your GP practice as you may require prescription medication.

Useful links

Itchy Sneezy Wheezy
Everything you need to know about allergies

Pollen forecast
Hay fever - Met Office

Pollen calendar
Hay fever - Met Office

NHS Choices - Hay fever
Living with hay fever

Please note links open in new window

Useful documents

Download our useful guide, which has information about how to treat your hay fever and the best medicines to use:


Hay fever guidance
Hay fever in children
Self-care information

Hay fever poster

Latest news

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