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Hay fever

Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is a very common condition, affecting between 10-20% of the population. It is caused by an allergy to pollen or sometimes mould spores.

The body's immune system over reacts to the allergen, as if it is something toxic. This results in irritation and inflammation. Hay fever often runs in families and is also related to asthma and eczema.

Symptoms vary in severity and start at different times of the year depending on the type of pollen or allergen causing the reaction. Common symptoms include sneezing, runny/blocked nose, red, watery and itchy eyes and an associated itchy throat. Poorly controlled hay fever can lead to poor quality sleep and daytime fatigue as well as undermining performance at school and work. Hay fever can affect a sufferer's quality of life for several months of the year.

For those people who are allergic to tree pollens, symptoms can start as early as January. The grass pollen season normally runs from May to the end of July when pollen counts are highest. Fungal spores are present all year but counts are highest in late summer and autumn.


As with all allergies, the first step to reducing symptoms is to try to avoid the allergen (see prevention advice). There are also a number of products available from your pharmacy to treat the symptoms of hayfever.

Antihistamines are available as tablets or liquids and may be sedating, (causes drowsiness) and non-sedating, (causes less drowsiness). They work by blocking the release of histamine, a chemical released by the body which causes the allergic reaction of irritation in the eyes and nose.

Check with your pharmacist to see if antihistamines are suitable for you. Steroid nasal sprays help to prevent hayfever symptoms and can therefore be used at the first onset of symptoms or when you know symptoms are likely to occur.

These products can be very effective when used regularly. Eye drops act by reducing the release of histamines from the eyes and help to reduce itching and swelling. These often contain the active ingredient sodium cromoglycate.


There are several things you can do to lessen symptoms by avoiding contact with all allergens. These include:

For further advice on hay fever consult your local community pharmacy.


The information provided on this website does not replace medical advice.

If you want to find out more, or are worried about any medical issue or symptoms that you may be experiencing, please contact your local community pharmacist or see your doctor