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Our doctors can advise you and prescribe from a wide range of antihistamine tablets, eye drops or nasal sprays that offer fast relief for hay fever.



What is hay fever?

Hay fever is a condition caused by an allergy to pollen. When a person with hay fever comes into contact with pollen they experience runny itchy eyes, sneezing, a blocked nose and tiredness. Hay fever commonly arises in the summer months, between March and September when the pollen count is at its peak.

What causes hay fever?

An allergic reaction to pollen is what causes hay fever. Pollen is released from plants into the air and triggers an allergic reaction in people with hay fever. Symptoms usually occur between March and September which is known as pollen season. 

Hay fever risk factors

Hay fever is more common in people with other allergies, such as eczema or respiratory conditions like asthma. It usually begins during childhood or adolescence.


Hay fever symptoms

The symptoms of hay fever include: 

  • Red, itchy and watery eyes 
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing
  • Blocked or runny nose 
  • Loss of smell
  • Headache
  • Pain in the temples or forehead 
  • Tiredness
  • Earache 

How is hay fever diagnosed?

A GP can diagnose hay fever by assessing your symptoms. They may ask you when and where your symptoms occur to rule out any other allergies. In some cases you may be referred to have an allergy test which will include either a skin prick test or a blood test.


What hay fever treatments are available?

Antihistamine treatments are available to purchase over the counter which include tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops. They can be used before coming into contact with pollen or when symptoms occur. If they prove ineffective then steroid nasal sprays can be prescribed by your GP. These are stronger and more effective and can be used for more severe, persist hay fever. Immunotherapy may be an option if no other treatments work for you.

Prescription vs over the counter hay fever treatments

Over the counter antihistamines are usually the first choice of treatment. They work against the histamine receptors within the body which release the chemical in response to an allergen, causing hay fever symptoms to flare up. Prescription medicines are stronger and more effective which contain steroids to reduce inflammation. Which treatment is best will depend on the severity of your hay fever. 

How to avoid hay fever

It's not always possible to completely avoid hay fever but there are steps you can take to be prepared for pollen season. Having medication ready when you need it will help a great deal. Some treatments can be used as a preventative measure before going outdoors or coming into contact with pollen. On days where the pollen count is higher, you may want to limit your time outdoors, keep windows closed and wear wrap around sunglasses to prevent irritation and redness of the eyes. Wash and change your clothes after being outside, avoid walking on freshly cut grass and don't keep fresh flowers in the house. 

Can hay fever be cured?

There is no cure for hay fever but it can be managed with treatment to allow you to live a normal life. 

What is immunotherapy for hay fever?

Immunotherapy for hay fever may be offered if all other treatment options do not work. This involves being given small doses of the pollen you are allergic to in order to reset your immune system so that it no longer sees pollen as a threat. This is given as either injections or drops under the tongue for a period of up to three years.

How do nasal sprays work for hay fever?

Nasal sprays work by releasing corticosteroids into the nose to reduce inflammation and ease a blocked or runny nose which is caused by coming into contact with pollen.  

Can a neti pot help hay fever?

A neti pot is a small container with a spout which is designed to be used to flush out and clear the nose with warm salty water. It can help hay fever by loosening mucus and getting rid of pollen in the nasal area. It's a very safe natural option for clearing the nose without the risk of side effects and can easily be used alongside your regular hay fever treatment. 

Are there specific eye drops for hay fever?

There are antihistamine and anti-inflammatory eye drops available to treat hay fever. You can buy these over the counter or your doctor can prescribe you with eye drops that are suitable for you. 

How do steroids help hay fever?

Steroids help fay fever by reducing inflammation and easing the symptoms which flare up in response to an allergen. The type that are present in hay fever medication are called corticosteroids which are produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands.

Home treatments for hay fever

There are things you can add to your diet to help manage your hay fever. Fenugreek seed tea is effective in keeping your sinuses clear and preventing nasal congestion. Manuka honey, garlic, ginger and fish oils are other great supplements with anti-inflammatory and clearing properties. Using a neti pot to rinse out the nose with salt water can be very effective in getting rid of symptoms and nettle extract has an antihistamine effect. 

How to help children with hay fever

If your child has hay fever, getting an appropriate treatment from a GP is important in order to manage their symptoms. There are other steps you can take to help them feel better. Checking the forecast each day will alert you to when the pollen count is high. During this time keep the windows closed and limit their time outdoors. Getting them a pair of sunglasses will protect their eyes and changing their clothes after school will limit exposure to lingering pollen. Washing and bathing everyday will also get rid of pollen, stopping it from interfering with their sleep.

Does eating honey help hay fever?

Manuka honey has been found to be beneficial for easing hay fever symptoms. The active ingredient is MGL methylglyoxal which is good at clearing up a runny nose, one of the symptoms of hay fever.

Side Effects

Can I drive after taking antihistamines?

Older types of antihistamines typically cause drowsiness as a side effect. There are lots of non-drowsy antihistamines available but they can still cause drowsiness in some people. You should not drive until you know how the medicine will affect you. If you drive while experiencing drowsiness you can be fined for drug-driving. 


Is hay fever just an allergy?

Hay fever is also known as allergic rhinitis. It is an allergic reaction to pollen, a fine powder which comes from plants and is released into the air for fertilisation.

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is another name for hay fever. 

Why is hay fever worse some years than others?

The severity of your hay fever will differ depending on what the pollen count is. Some years may be worse than others if the pollen count is higher or if you spend more time outdoors. 

Can you only get hay fever in summer?

Hay fever symptoms usually only occur between late March and September. If you experience persist hay fever all year round then this could be a sign of another allergy. You should see your GP for an allergy test if this happens. 

Can hay fever make asthma worse?

Asthma can be triggered by an allergic reaction. If you have asthma alongside hay fever then you should ensure you have access to your inhaler at all times. Your GP may prescribe you with a preventer inhaler to use everyday in order to reduce inflammation and keep your airways clear. Taking antihistamines or using nasal sprays and eye drops when needed will also help to control your symptoms.

How to tell if you have hay fever vs a cold

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen whereas the cold is a virus producing temporary symptoms. While the symptoms can be similar, only hay fever results in itchy eyes, ears or throat. If you have the cold you may experience mild feverish symptoms and an achy feeling which does not occur in hay fever. 

What is the hygiene hypothesis and how does it relate to hay fever?

The hygiene hypothesis is a theory developed by a professor of epidemiology called David P. Strachan. He theorised that children who are not exposed to germs and are kept in overly clean environments are more likely to develop allergies like hay fever or asthma. This is because the immune system hasn't had a chance to develop. Strachan's hygiene hypothesis wouldn't discourage cleanliness but may view outdoor activities and spending time with other children as important factors in allowing a healthy immune system to develop. 

What are the complications of hay fever?

Hay fever can have a negative impact on the quality of your life, affecting your work and school life. It can affect your sleep and lead to Sinusitis and make asthma worse. It can also cause ear infections in children. Managing your hay fever with adequate treatment means that you can live your life normally without your allergy causing disruption.  

How can hay fever affect your life?

Hay fever can be disruptive and cause a lack of productivity in your life. This could be because going outside makes unpleasant symptoms flare up, making it difficult to concentrate in school or work. Or it could restrict outdoor activity and make it difficult to enjoy warm weather during the summer. It can also cause tiredness, particularly if hay fever symptoms make it harder for you to sleep. Finding medication that works well to control your hay fever symptoms will help you to lead a normal life. 

Can hay fever kill you?

Hay fever can pose a serious risk to your health if you also have a respiratory condition such as asthma, COPD or Pneumonia. A study conducted in the Netherlands found that on days where the pollen count was high, there was a 5-10% increase in deaths. If you have a condition which affects your lungs, then preparing yourself for pollen season is necessary. Visit your GP to make sure your medication or inhalers are up to date. They may also prescribe you with antihistamines or steroids for reducing hay fever symptoms. A pharmacist can advise you on which over the counter treatments may be best for you. 

Is it okay to take antihistamines every day during the summer?

Antihistamines for hay fever can be used daily during the summer months. This can help to prevent symptoms before they occur, allowing you to manage your hay fever effectively. 

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