Download app Download app

Hay fever

Hay fever is the common term for a condition called allergic rhinitis. It’s an allergic reaction to pollens, which may be grass, tree or weed pollen, and it usually presents itself between March and September.

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy throat, nose and ears
  • Itchy and/or watering eyes
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Congested sinuses

Hay fever often occurs in people who are also asthmatic. If this is the case, hay fever symptoms can be worse, and in turn, asthma symptoms worsen. This can cause:

  • Cough
  • Wheeze
  • Tight chest

Avoiding the pollens that cause the allergy is the best way to control hay fever symptoms. Understandably, this is quite difficult at times, but you can help it by:

  • Staying indoors when possible (especially when the pollen count is high), and keeping windows closed
  • Putting vaseline around your nostrils (this traps the pollen and reduces the amount you breathe)
  • Showering and changing clothes after going outside
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen
  • Cleaning, dusting and hoovering regularly to prevent build up of pollen inside the house
  • Avoiding having fresh flowers in the house
  • Avoiding drying your clothes outside

If symptoms are bad, there are treatments available from a pharmacy to control hay fever symptoms. These include:

  • Antihistamines – Medications with the ingredient cetirizine or loratadine. These are available over the counter and generally do not cause sleepiness
  • Decongestant nasal spray – These can be used for acute relief of a blocked or stuffy nose, but should not be used for longer than 7 days
  • Steroid nasal sprays – These can reduce inflammation in the nose caused by pollen allergies
  • Eye drops with antihistamine – These can relieve itchy, watery eyes

If you know you’re badly affected by hay fever each year, it helps to start taking antihistamine medication just before the pollen season, before your hay fever symptoms start.

If symptoms carry on despite the above treatment, a GP can issue a stronger form of antihistamine tablet or steroid nasal spray. In very severe cases, oral steroids may be required or a referral to a specialist allergy clinic.

Last updated:
12 Nov 2020
Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP at Livi