Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen. Common symptoms are a runny, itchy and/or blocked nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.
What is hay fever?
Pollen is the name given to the fine powder that is produced by plants, trees or flowers to fertilise other plants, trees or flowers of the same species. Grass pollen is the most common cause and tends to affect people every year in the grass pollen season from about May to July (late spring to early summer). Tree pollens tend to affect people from March to May (early to late spring) each year. Other people may be allergic to weed pollens (including nettles and docks). Weeds tend to pollinate from early spring to early autumn.
Symptoms are due to your immune system reacting to the pollen. Cells on the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals when they come in contact with pollen. This causes inflammation in the nose (rhinitis) and eyes (conjunctivitis). Sometimes the sinuses and throat can also be affected.
Who gets hay fever?
Hay fever is very common. It affects 1 in 5 people in the United Kingdom. It often first develops in school age children and during the teenage years. Symptoms return for a season each year, but it eventually goes away or improves in many cases (often after having had symptoms each season for several years). Hay fever tends to run in families. You are also more likely to develop hay fever if you already have asthma or eczema. Equally, if you have hay fever, you are more likely to develop eczema or asthma.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
The symptoms of hay fever can vary from person to person. Some people only have mild symptoms that tend to come and go. Others can be severely affected with symptoms that are present every day during the pollen season.
Will it help if I avoid pollen?
It is impossible to totally avoid pollen. However, symptoms tend to be less severe if you reduce your exposure to pollen. The pollen count is the number of pollen grains per cubic metre of air. The pollen count is often given with TV, radio, internet, or newspaper weather forecasts. A high pollen count is a count above 50.
What are the commonly used treatments?
The commonly used treatment options for hay fever are: antihistamine nose sprays, antihistamine tablets, steroid nose sprays, and eye drops.
If you are taking hay fever medication regularly and your hay fever is well controlled on your current treatment, you should continue this treatment until the end of the pollen season.
Most treatments are available to buy over-the-counter and many can be prescribed to you for free by our pharmacist if you are eligible for the NHS Minor Ailments service.
For help and advice please come in and speak to our Pharmacy Team who can guide you on selecting the best product to treat your symptoms.
Further help and advice
Allergy Helpline: 01322619898