Hay Fever

Hay Fever

Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis caused by pollen or spores. Allergic rhinitis is a condition where an allergen (something that causes an allergic reaction) makes the inside of your nose inflamed (swollen).  Hay fever affects the nose, sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead), throat and eyes. It causes:  sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect that you have hay fever, you may want to discuss it with your pharmacist or your GP to confirm the diagnosis. This will help you decide whether you need treatment and rule out anything else that could be causing your symptoms, such as an infection.  

A range of products are available to treat the symptoms of hay fever. Some may be prescribed by your GP, but others are available over-the-counter (OTC) in most pharmacies.

Preventing Hay Fever

It is very difficult to completely avoid pollen or spores. However, reducing your exposure to the substances that trigger your hay fever should ease the severity of your symptoms. Follow the advice below to avoid being exposed to excessive amounts of pollen and spores. 

  • Avoid cutting grass, playing or walking in grassy areas, and camping.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors.
  • Change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body.
  • Try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50). See Symptoms for an explanation of the pollen count.
  • Keep windows and doors shut in the house. If it gets too warm, draw the curtains to keep out the sun and keep the temperature down.
  • Do not keep fresh flowers in the house.
  • Vacuum regularly, ideally using a machine with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter.
  • Damp dust regularly. Dusting with a wet cloth, rather than a dry one, will collect the dust and stop any pollen from being spread around. 
  • Keep pets out of the house during the hay fever season. If your pet does come indoors, wash it regularly to remove any pollen from its fur.
  • Do not smoke or let other people smoke in your house. Smoking and breathing in other people's smoke will irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, and can make your symptoms worse.
  • Keep car windows closed. You can buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. This will need to be changed every time the car is serviced.

More information

Hay fever and its management