Hay fever 

Introduction 

Hay fever advice

Hay fever is an allergy to pollen that affects around one in four people. An expert explains how it's diagnosed, the symptoms and treatment.

Media last reviewed: 19/03/2013

Next review due: 19/03/2015

Allergic rhinitis

The medical term for hay fever is seasonal allergic rhinitis. Rhinitis means inflammation of the inside of the nose.

Some people can also experience hay fever-like symptoms when they are exposed to other allergy-triggering substances, such as dust mites and animal fur.

Read more about other types of allergic rhinitis.

Pollen count

The pollen count is a measurement of the amount of pollen in the air. The higher the count the more severe symptoms of hay fever can become (depending on the specific type of pollen you are allergic to).

The Met Office provides a pollen forecast. If the count is high you can take preventative steps such as taking an antihistamine before leaving the house.

Allergies

Advice on allergies such as eczema and food allergy, and what treatments are available on the NHS

Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life.

Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • sneezing
  • a runny nose
  • itchy eyes

Read more about the symptoms of hay fever.

The symptoms of hay fever are caused when a person has an allergic reaction to pollen.

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 (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.

You can have an allergy to:

  • tree pollen, released during spring
  • grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
  • weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn

Read more about the causes of hay fever.

Many people find that their symptoms improve as they get older. Around half of people report some improvement in symptoms after several years. In around 10%-20% of people symptoms go away completely.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for hay fever but most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment, at least to a certain extent.

In an ideal world, the most effective way to control hay fever would be to avoid exposure to pollen. However, it's very difficult to avoid pollen, particularly during the summer months when you want to spend more time outdoors.

Treatment options for hay fever include antihistamines, which can help prevent an allergic reaction from happening and corticosteroids (steroids), which help reduce levels of inflammation and swelling.

Many cases of hay fever can be controlled using over-the-counter medication available from your pharmacist. But if your symptoms are more troublesome it’s worth speaking to your GP as you may require prescription medication.

For persistent and severe hay fever there is also a type of treatment called immunotherapy where you are exposed to small amounts of pollen over time to build up a resistance to its allergic effects. However, this can take many months or even years to be effective.

Read more about treating hay fever.

Who is affected

Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with hay fever in England.

Hay fever usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years, but you can get it at any age.

The condition is more common in boys than in girls. In adults, men and women are equally affected.

Hay fever is more likely if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema.

Self-help tips

It is sometimes possible to prevent the symptoms of hay fever by taking some basic precautions, such as:

  • wearing 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 hay fever symptoms for an explanation of the pollen count

Read more about the prevention of hay fever.

Complications

Hay fever does not pose a serious threat to health but it can have a negative impact on your quality of life. People with very bad hay fever often find that it can disrupt their productivity at school or work.

Another common complication of hay fever is inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis). Children in particular may also develop a middle ear infection (otitis media) as a result of hay fever.

Read more about the complications of hay fever.  




Page last reviewed: 10/02/2014

Next review due: 10/02/2016

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Comments

The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Orbilia said on 24 June 2013

At one point I was allergic to the whole grass plant (and nettles and plantain) that I had to take massive amounts of antihistamine under my doctor's supervision. My symptoms still caused me hell and both the pills and the allergy were creating dangerous health issues.

My GP gave me a course of acupuncture which reduced the symptoms so dramatically I could hardly believe it. I now only need to take a pill once in a while and use my inhaler so rarely that I get it replaced 'cos it's past it's expiry date!

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Plast said on 19 June 2013

If I could say any word about hay fever It would start with I Hate not only can i hardly breath I dread the heat. I came back from seeing a private doctor in london and decided enough was enough. £100 is a lot of money to me but I am assured it will work my sister emailed me a page. I went private so fingers crossed that this works as they told me it will. Has any one else had the injection? and did it work for you. Thanks P

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janescott1970 said on 15 May 2013

Used to dread this time of year. I got some respite last year because someone recommended I apply vaseline inside the bottom of my nostrils, which I did and it did help a little. Then I came across a great little product called haymax which is natural and works much better than vaseline and the relief it gave me was unbeleivable. I have now switched to sinubalm within the past couple of weeks which works even better again because it seems to hold better in my nostrils therefore lasts longer. It is also cheaper and does not have any odour. The haymax natural is not the most pleasant smell. I cant beleive how a simple product can be so affective.

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ShengB said on 22 August 2012

OMG Matthew Patterson I am competely with you on this, my hayfever has done the same stuff to me which makes ulmost unable to talk coz my hearing has gone really weird yet none of the sneezing and itching stuff :/ I do also feel severely tired EVERY SINGLE DAY. It all started back in March and Its been going on for 5 MONTHS!!?? can somebody PLEASE explain to me what is going on with me? Help coz its driving me INSANE :// Is Kenalog injection the only option available to get me out of the misery I am in at the moment?

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Monty40 said on 24 April 2012

Hayfever has been the bain of my life since I can remember and sometimes gets that bad I can hardly open my eyes let alone function. I was on a trip in connecticut (america) last year when a guy who I became friends with seen how much distress I was in and suggested I use a nose spray he was using. He was kind enough to give me one of his as a gift (he had a full carton) and said he got it from the UK. I had never heard of it before. It was amazing and I never felt so good when I used it. I used the full bottle and when I got back to the UK my hayfever was great for the remainder of the summer even when the pollen count was high. I don't know why it would but it even stopped the itching and watering in my eyes. My hayfever is now starting to play up again and I never got a contact number for my friend. I remember it smelled of cumin and ginger. Does anyone know what it is called? The name has not stuck in my mind and I want to get some urgently as I am starting to panic at the thought of this summer without it. Cheers.

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o Nions said on 02 July 2011

I used to suffer from hay fever so badly that I had to take time off work every year. But about 4 years ago I found a really simple cure - onions! No really - if you chew a slice of raw onion when the sneezing is upon you it stops it dead - amazing! Ok it doesn't stop the itching around the eyes but it allows you to continue with your life! Also over the four years or so I've been using the Onion Cure lol I've noticed that I've begun slowly to develop a sort of resistance to hay fever and the symptoms have become much milder. Onions are of course good for you too. Just don't kiss anybody... Sooo here's to the mighty onion - saved my life...
PS I searched for this site not because I was looking for a cure but just to let other sufferers know....

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Matthew Patterson said on 21 June 2011

I allegedly started suffering from Hay Fever around 5 years ago. My Hay Fever isnt like any of the sites say. I dont have itchy eyes or sneeze. My nose just gets so blocked i cant breath which in turn make me unable to hear. I have been to the DR every year and each year told different stuff to try. I even try taking tablets at the beginning of the year and still i get the symptoms. It last for around 6 months of the year and even when they say the pollon count is low- i am still the same. Its an absolute nightmare and i am unsure as to what to try or where to turn. Can anyone help?

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crazyifg said on 18 April 2011

hi,sory for my lang firtsly .i do have this kind of allergy since i was 18 19 , but i dindnt know.i move i uk few years ago , i develloped allergy on honey , milk and some kinds of foods made with some incredients .i did try a lot and now after 2 years i dont have any food alergy and i hope in 2 years i will cure this for ever.i still have some eyes problems , burning for eg but not so bad like before.i would like to share my advices and how i did it , and to hear opinions about how the others can survive with this.i was to gp 2 years ago and he told me the same i will never be cured but i cant accept this and from this hay fever we i can go worst to asthma .thanks

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cd1234 said on 26 February 2011

I am one part of that 20% of people that have hay fever in england. But my condition starts in late winter. I have also tryed everything on the market. I have also tryed everthing on perscription. I would also like to know why this happends. So how can it possiably be pollen at this time of the year?help!!!

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