Hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
Hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, especially when it is warm, humid and windy – this is when the pollen count is at its highest. Many people find their hay fever is worse when there’s high pollution, especially when hot weather makes pollution worse (pollution molecules stick to pollen grains, so they hang about in the air longer and are harder to get out of your airways).
Common symptoms of hay fever include:
- a runny, itchy and/or blocked nose
- sneezing and coughing
- itchy or watery eyes
Hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.
How to treat hay fever:
Unfortunately there is no cure for hay fever yet, and you cannot prevent it, however there are things you can do to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high, have a look at the NHS website for the Do’s and Don’ts!
Many hay fever symptoms can be controlled with over-the-counter medication at your local pharmacy – speak to your local community pharmacist for advice.
- Steroid nasal sprays help to prevent or reduce inflammation in the lining of the nose and some can help to relieve watery eyes.
- Antihistamines help to relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Some types of antihistamines make you drowsy and are best taken before bed. Newer antihistamines are less likely to make you drowsy and are a common choice for children and people with milder or occasional symptoms of hay fever.
- Decongestant nasal sprays and tablets are used to unblock the nose. They should never be taken for more than a few days at a time.
- Eye drops can be used to treat itchy or watery eyes
When to contact the surgery:
Contact the surgery if your symptoms are getting worse (i.e. are becoming moderate to severe), or if they are not improving after using over-the-counter medication as directed by your local pharmacist.