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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.

When to contact your GP practice

Most cases of hay fever can be treated using medication from a pharmacy or supermarket. But if your symptoms are more troublesome it’s 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
Self-care information

Latest news

High pollen count - hay fever advice

The Met Office is predicting a high pollen count over the coming week, which could mean a miserable time for those affected by hay fever. It is estimated that over 10 million people in the country suffer from hay fever and it affects people of all ages. Read more...

Avoiding the misery of hay fever

At least one in five people in the UK suffer from hay fever and for those who do the coming months could be a miserable time. Read more...

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