Skip to contentright arrow
eMed previously Babylon Health

Hay Fever

Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions in the UK, affecting one in five people at some point during their lifetime. It’s caused by a reaction to pollen, and there is currently no cure for the condition. The worst time for hay fever sufferers is the summertime, when the pollen count is high. It can have a significant impact, affecting productivity at work or school and making it difficult to sleep. Don’t suffer in silence – speak to a GP today to help manage your hay fever symptoms.

Hay fever symptoms

Hay fever can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, which vary in severity from person to person.

  • Blocked, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Loss of smell
  • Headache
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms

What causes hay fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen. Sufferers can be allergic to just one type, or a number of different pollens. When the fine powder comes into contact with your nose, eyes and mouth, the body overreacts and thinks that the harmless substance is a threat. Your immune system produces a chemical called histamine which causes inflammation, this leads to the symptoms of a runny nose and watery eyes. This is your body's way of trying to flush out the imaginary bad stuff.

Symptoms can worsen on days when the pollen count is high and at certain times of the year. A hot, dry day is typically bad news for hay fever sufferers.

While it is unknown what causes certain people to become allergic to pollen, hay fever sufferers usually have a family history of allergies such as asthma and eczema.

Treating hay fever

Usually, when treating an allergy, the best advice is to avoid exposure to what causes an allergic reaction. Unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid tiny pollen particles, so the best way to manage hay fever is by treating the symptoms. Millions of people manage their own symptoms at home with over the counter medication available from the pharmacy, such as antihistamines.

If you feel your hay fever is really affecting your quality of life, then you should speak to a doctor about further treatment. Managing severe symptoms can be challenging, and you may require prescription medication or long term therapy. You can also take measures to manage your symptoms, including keeping windows closed, fitting a pollen filter in your car and cleaning the house regularly to remove pollen particles.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.