Hay fever season: how to cope with rising pollen counts

Tips and tricks for hay fever season


The arrival of the summer months brings plenty of fun for many of us; barbecues, trips to the beach and drinks in the park. However, for those of us with hay fever, it's a different story. The summer months are when plants release pollen into the air, meaning the outdoors is rife with pollen, triggering red itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose for hay fever sufferers. You don't have to let it spoil your summer though. With the right treatment and know-how, you can enjoy the season as much as everyone else. 

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What are the symptoms of hay fever? 

Depending on the severity of your hay fever, you may only experience a few mild symptoms. For others, it may have more of a debilitating effect. The symptoms include: 

  • Sneezing 
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Coughing 
  • Itchy, watery or red eyes
  • An itchy feeling in the throat, ears and nose 
  • Loss of smell 
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Pain around the temples or forehead 
  • Tiredness 

How do I know if it's hay fever or a cold? 

The symptoms of hay fever are similar to the cold. A cold will usually last for a week or two and then your symptoms disappear. Hay fever will last for months at a time and it will recur at certain times of the year. You're more likely to feel unwell and run down with the cold. 

What are the treatment options for hay fever?

There is a range of treatment options to help you manage hay fever. You may need to use a combination to keep your symptoms under control.  

  • Antihistamines tablets (such as Neoclarityn) which stop your allergy symptoms from flaring up. They are readily available over-the-counter and stronger versions can be prescribed by your GP
  • Antihistamine eye drops (such as Optilast) and nasal sprays (such as Rhinolast)
  • Decongestants which come in the form of nasal sprays or tablets 
  • Corticosteroids nasal sprays such as Beconase-Aqueous and Avamys. These treatments are only available on prescription 
  • Montelukast is a tablet which may be prescribed to treat hay fever in people with allergic asthma 
  • Ipratropium is a nasal spray used to help treat asthma which is triggered by hay fever 
  • Oral corticosteroids are a stronger treatment which may be prescribed if antihistamines and nasal sprays haven't been effective 
  • Immunotherapy is an option if medications haven't worked. This involves receiving regular injections with small amounts of pollen over 3-5 years to build up a resistance 

What can I do at home to manage hay fever?  

There are plenty of practical steps you can take to minimise your exposure to pollen and treat your symptoms. Using nasal irrigation is an effective way of relieving congestion. This involves rinsing out your sinuses with saline solution (saltwater) using a neti pot - a small bottle with a spout. Other things you can do include:

  • Keeping windows closed to stop pollen getting in 
  • Stay indoors where possible when the pollen count is high 
  • Clean and vacuum often to ensure you get rid of stray pollen 
  • Dab vaseline around your nostrils to stop pollen getting in
  • Change your clothes and have a shower after being outdoors 
  • Use a pollen filter for the air vents inside your car 
  • Avoid drying clothes outside 
  • Get air conditioning or a dehumidifier 

If you are going outdoors, the pollen count is highest in the morning so it's best to wait until later in the day to minimise your exposure to pollen. You can also: 

  • Wear wraparound sunglasses 
  • Avoid walking across freshly cut grass 
  • Don't have fresh flowers inside your home
  • If you have pets, try not to let them inside the house 
  • Avoid cigarette smoke 

Checking the weather forecast in advance will alert you to high levels of pollen. This means you can plan ahead and take your preferred medicine so that you can control your symptoms, avoiding pollen where possible. There are apps you can download for your smartphone which track your symptoms and display when the pollen count is high. 

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NHS > Hay Fever
Mayo Clinic > Hay fever Diagnosis and Treatment

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