Hay Fever – What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Young person blowing their nose into a hankerchief
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, affects a significant portion of the UK's population, manifesting symptoms during pollen seasons. With treatments ranging from antihistamines to preventive measures, learn how to manage this allergy and maintain your quality of life.

Depending on what type of hay fever you have the season starts in March and goes on until September, so for more than half the year there is a risk of hay fever if you are an allergy sufferer.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is a form of allergy to pollen from grass, weeds, and trees. The medical term for hay fever is allergic rhinitis and over a quarter of adults and between 10 and 15% of children in the UK have allergy symptoms during the pollen season.

You’ll notice symptoms when the pollen count is high which is normally between March and September.

Why do people get hay fever?

People get hay fever when the body makes allergic antibodies to substances like pollen or dust or animal fur and feathers. If people are sensitised to the allergens, then mediators (chemicals) are released by the body such as histamine and cause an inflammatory reaction which affects the eyes, nose and sometimes, our airways.

What are the symptoms?

There are various symptoms when you have hay fever. The most common are itchy eyes and throat and a blocked nose and sneezing a lot.

But pollen allergy can also make you feel tired, give you headaches and you may also feel breathless.

What are the treatments?

The most common treatment for hay fever is to take antihistamines. You can take antihistamines in the form of tablets, gels, creams, lotions nasal sprays and eye drops.  Most people tend to take one antihistamine tablet a day for the duration of the pollen season.

Some antihistamine tablets can make you feel drowsy, but there are others that don’t. Talk to us here at the pharmacy and we’ll advise you on the best antihistamine to suit your needs.

You may also need a spray inhaler because nasal steroids help to reduce inflammation and a saline solution to rinse out your nose. A balm like Vaseline can also help if you apply it around your nostrils as this should provide a barrier against the pollen. Ask your doctor or your pharmacist about nasal sprays.

Those that contain decongestants can give relief in the short term, but they aren’t recommended for long-term use as they might make the condition worse.

Should I treat hay fever?

If you don’t then your symptoms could be more severe, and this can affect your day-to-day living. Hay fever sufferers report having disturbed sleep, feeling tired and finding it difficult to concentrate. Some allergens can cause asthma and that means you won’t be able to move around as much as would do normally without being out of breath.

Is there anything else I can do to relieve the symptoms?

Unfortunately, pollen is easily spread by the wind or insects and so it is difficult to keep away from it. But there are things you can do:

If you can, stay at home when the pollen count is high. If you can’t then remove your clothes and have a shower when you get indoors to remove any pollen. 

Wash your clothes and dry them indoors. If you put them outside the wind will blow the pollen on to clothes again. If it’s windy outside keep your windows shut, especially during the early morning and in the evening.

When you are out and about wearing sunglasses will protect your eyes and you could also wear a mask with a filter which may help. You can buy disposable or washable masks that you can reuse.

If you’re in a car see if your model will accommodate a pollen filter and put the air in the car on ‘recirculate.’ Keep the windows shut.

Here at VSM Pharmacy, we have a variety of hay fever remedies that we can recommend. Have a chat with a member of staff, we’re always happy to advise you.

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