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What is hay fever?

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common allergies in the UK, affecting around 13 million Brits.  It starts early in the year if it is due to tree pollen allergy (Feb-May) or in summer in patients allergic to grass pollen. Symptoms can be present all year round in patients allergic to house dust mites, moulds or pets.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Symptoms of hay fever  include:

  • Itchy throat, ears, nose, and mouth
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Bouts of sneezing
  • Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose)
  • Headache 
  • Itchy and bloodshot eyes
  • Feeling tired
  • Cough
  • Poor sleep due to blocked/runny nose

How is hay fever diagnosed and treated?

An allergy specialist will be able to confirm whether you have hay fever or not using the relevant allergy skin prick test and blood tests. There are various treatments – both over the counter and prescribed – that can help reduce and manage symptoms. These include nasal steroid sprays, antihistamine tablets and eye drops designed to treat the inflammation and irritation caused by hay fever. ‘Old-style’ antihistamines such as chlorphenamine or hydroxyzine should not be used as they cause drowsiness. If standard treatment fails, an allergist can recommend a course of desensitisation (immunotherapy) to try to make hay fever ‘go away’.  In addition to medication, patients might wish to :

  • Shower and change clothes as soon as they get home.
  • Put clothes in an enclosed washing basket or straight in the wash to limit the amount of pollen which can enter their home. 
  • Wear sunglasses to help reduce pollen that might get in their eyes.
  • Keep windows and doors shut to prevent pollen entering their home.
  • Vacuum (HEPA filter) and dust with a damp cloth to get rid of pollen
  • Apply Vaseline or  a clear lip balm around the nostrils and lips to ‘trap’ pollen
  • Keep car windows shut when driving