The truth about hay fever causes & treatments

Even mild hay fever symptoms can make life difficult and make you fear going outside in nice weather. Find out everything you need to know about hay fever so you can tackle it head on.

What causes hay fever?

Your streaming nose and itchy eyes are caused by allergy to pollen. Hay fever is a very common problem with one in five people suffering to some degree from irritating symptoms.

Are there different types of hay fever?

Everyone who has hay fever is allergic to pollen; although people can be allergic to different types. This could be from trees, grass and weeds- with a grass pollen allergy being the most common.

Different people also experience a diverse combination of symptoms that can be mild, moderate or severe. Everyone’s hay fever is different and needs to be treated individually.

Why doesn’t everyone get hay fever?

Just like other allergies, not everyone is affected. A susceptibility to allergies usually runs in families but how they develop depends on environmental factors that aren’t well understood.

Children are often more susceptible, boys in particular; with teenagers usually experiencing the worst symptoms.

What does “pollen count” mean?

It’s a measurement of how much pollen is in the air. A high pollen count means there is more pollen about and so your symptoms could be more severe. Although this depends on the type of pollen you are allergic to.

The Met Office has a pollen forecast, where you can get up to date information on the pollen in your area.

Can I avoid pollen?

That would obviously be ideal but unfortunately not very realistic. If you go outside during the summer you’ll be exposed to pollen and even if you stay indoors, it’ll likely come in through open windows or door, or even on other people’s hair and clothes.

However it’s a good idea to take some precautions that will minimise exposure, such as wearing wraparound sunglasses, showering and changing clothes after being outside and staying indoors if the pollen count is particularly high.

Is pollen really higher in the morning?

In general this is true as pollen rises throughout the day on warm currents and drops back down to nose level in the evening, so it’s advisable to keep your windows closed at night if you’re a hay fever sufferer.

However some grasses release their pollen in the afternoon, so it depends what kind of pollen you are allergic to and exposed to. Also if it’s been raining overnight and the grass is wet the pollen will be released later in the morning, after the water has evaporated.

Can hay fever get worse?

Usually it’s the reverse, getting better with age. However hay fever symptoms can change as sufferers develop allergic reactions to different types of pollen. This can see people experiencing symptoms earlier or later than usual.

Also if your general health isn’t at its best, hay fever symptoms can get worse. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and exercise and cut down on your alcohol consumption.

Are hay fever sufferers more likely to get other allergies?

Many people with hay fever are only allergic to pollen. However having an allergic tendency can mean that some people find they have a collection of allergies, like asthma, hay fever and eczema.

If you have asthma as well as hay fever, then consult your GP to discuss your asthma medication.

Is there a cure for hay fever?

No. There isn’t anything that can cure hay fever, but there is plenty of medication that can help to relieve the symptoms.

What medication do I need?

The medication you take depends on the type and severity of your symptoms. Anti-histamines are used to treat the main symptoms, such as itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose.

They come as tablets, such as Cetrizine and Loratadine, which are the chemical names for the active ingredient in brand medication Piriteze and Clarytin and so are cheaper. These are over-the-counter medications, but for more severe symptoms Telfast can be obtained on prescription. All these new anti-histamines are non-sedative.

As reaction to anti-histamines is a personal factor, sufferers may need to try a variety before they find the one that works best for their symptoms.