hay fever

Hay fever hassle!

Hay fever also called allergic rhinitis is an extremely common condition, but how do we know it isn’t just a common cold?

Approximately 10 million of us experience hay fever in England and it is usually worse between late March and September, when it is warm, windy, and humid as this is when the pollen count is at its highest!

Despite its name, hay fever does not mean that the person is allergic to hay, hay is hardly ever an allergen, and fever is not a symptom!

Although an allergy to pollen is common, recognising the symptoms isn’t necessarily straightforward. By not spotting the signs of hay fever, the allergy goes unchecked, causing many of us to suffer for weeks unnecessarily.

In the U.K. hay fever season is split by pollen type:

  • February to June – tree pollen
  • May to July – grass pollen (the most common hay fever trigger)
  • June to September – weed pollen.


It is caused by an allergic reaction to airborne substances such as pollen. The time of year it happens depends on what substance, or allergen the person reacts to.

Pollen is a very fine powder produced by trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds. When those with hay fever breathe in plant pollen, their bodies overreact. The immune system registers the incoming pollen as dangerous, this in turn kickstarts the production of antibodies,and a release of histamines follows.

This is your body’s well-meaning effort to get rid of the allergen from your body and prevent further pollen particles from getting in!


Symptoms can start at various times of the year, depending on what the person is allergic to. A person who is allergic to common pollen will have more severe symptoms when the pollen count is high.

Common symptoms include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy throat
  • Blocked, itchy or runny nose.

Severe symptoms may include: –

  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Sweats
  • Pain caused by blocked sinuses.
  • Itchiness spreading from the throat to the nose and ears.

Some people may even experience fatigue, insomnia, and irritability!


There is currently no cure for hay fever and unfortunately you cannot prevent it either! However, you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high!

  1. Shower at night.  Showering at night before you go to bed can make sure that any pollen stuck in your hair and skin doesn’t cosy up to you in bed!
  2. Make it a habit to take off your shoes, change your clothes and wash your face and hands when you come inside to reduce the risk of bringing pollen in with you.
  3. Vacuuming can help to suck up not only dust particles but pollen too – devote a few minutes a day to giving the house a good old hoovering!
  4. Check the pollen forecast daily as it can change depending on a variety of factors and act accordingly!


A range of over-the-counter treatments can help manage hay fever. Sometimes a combination of two or three is best, your G.P. or pharmacist should be able to advise you on what options are best for you.

Medications include: –

  • Antihistamine sprays or tablets

Regularly available over the counter, these work by stopping the release of the chemical histamine. They effectively relieve the symptoms of a runny nose, itching and sneezing but won’t unblock congested sinuses. Please be aware that some antihistamines can cause drowsiness!

  • Eye drops

These help to reduce itchy and swollen eyes.

  • Nasal corticosteroids

These sprays treat the inflammation caused by hay fever; however, it may take up to a week for any benefits to show.

  • Oral corticosteroids

These are prescribed by your G.P. and are for severe symptoms, to be used only in the short term. Long term use has been linked to cataracts, muscle weakness and osteoporosis!

So, to all my fellow hay fever sufferers, recognising the difference between hay fever and a cold and then identifying the type of pollen that triggers your reaction is a crucial way to take control of your allergy. This will allow you to get outside and make the most of the summer!

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or [email address=”luton@healesclinics.com”