What are the symptoms of hay fever?

  • 14 February 2021 11:35:36
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Hay fever is a very common problem that affects up to 26% of adults in the UK. For some people it can be a minor inconvenience but for others, it can seriously impact their quality of life at different times of the year. You can use a combination of lifestyle tips and medication to get relief from hay fever symptoms.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever can cause a range of symptoms and different people may experience different symptoms. These include:


A blocked or runny nose


Itchy nose, mouth and throat

Watery or itchy eyes



Loss of smell


What are the causes of hay fever?

Hay fever symptoms occur when your body has an allergic reaction to pollen, a powder produced by plants. Symptoms generally occur when pollen comes into contact with your eyes, nose, throat, and mouth.

Hay fever symptoms are usually worse when the pollen count is at its highest, from around March to September. You can use the Met Office’s pollen forecast to see how high the pollen count is on a given day. Tree pollen is usually a problem in the spring whereas grass pollen is a problem at the end of spring and beginning of summer.

However, some people get symptoms all year round if they’re allergic to animal dander or dust mites. This is known as perennial allergic rhinitis. Hay fever treatments can help with allergic rhinitis.

Lifestyle tips for hay fever

There are a number of things you can do to improve your symptoms when the pollen count is high. Try your best to avoid pollen by keeping windows and doors closed, drying clothes indoors instead of outside, and not cutting grass or walking on grass. On days with a very high pollen count, try to stay indoors as much as possible.

Wearing wraparound sunglasses can stop pollen irritating your eyes and putting vaseline around your nostrils can stop pollen irritating your nose. Taking a shower after you come in from being outside can help to wash pollen off.

People who have symptoms from dust mites or animal dander may find regular vacuuming and dusting helpful.

You can use these tips by themselves to help with symptoms, or you can combine them with medication.

Allergy medications

There are a number of medicines available to treat hay fever in the UK, including hay fever tablets, hay fever eye drops, and hay fever nasal sprays.


Various tablets exist for hay fever and there are many brands to choose from such as Piriton, Benadryl, and Clarityn. Common active ingredients of hay fever tablets include the antihistamines loratadine, chlorphenamine, and cetirizine. There is also a prescription-strength medicine called fexofenadine (Telfast) which will soon be available over the counter under the brand name Allevia.

Antihistamines can be effective at relieving hay fever symptoms although some people find some antihistamines work better than others. By trying different antihistamines you can find which ones work best for you. 

Certain antihistamines are more likely to make you drowsy such as chlorphenamine (Piriton) and promethazine. Non-drowsy antihistamines are less likely to cause this side effect. Examples of non-drowsy antihistamines include loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine.

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays are useful if you suffer from many of the nasal symptoms of hay fever. Nasal antihistamines like Rhinolast work more quickly than antihistamine tablets and they are also more effective at relieving nasal symptoms. 

Other nasal products contain corticosteroids such as Beconase. These reduce the inflammation in the nose which helps to improve nasal symptoms of hay fever.

Eye Drops

Eye drops are used to treat symptoms like itchy, red, and watery eyes. Optrex Hayfever Relief eye drops 10ml contains the active ingredient sodium cromoglicate which is helpful at providing relief for eye symptoms. A number of other eye drops are available, both over the counter and on prescription.

Other treatments and investigations

If your hay fever is particularly severe and medicines from your GP are unable to control your symptoms, your GP can refer you for immunotherapy. This involves exposing you to small amounts of pollen and gradually increasing the amount of pollen you’re exposed to. This is used to build up immunity to pollen.

If you have allergic symptoms and your GP isn’t sure what is causing them, they can send you for allergy testing. There are various ways to test for allergies but the aim is to see what (usually harmless substance) triggers your immune system to cause symptoms. Tests for allergies include blood tests and skin tests.


Hay fever can cause a wide variety of symptoms which can be mild for some people and debilitating for others. Symptoms coincide with high pollen counts, which are usually high from March to September time.

People who suffer from hay fever can implement lifestyle tips to reduce how much pollen they come into contact with, which can improve symptoms. Numerous treatments are available such as hayfever tablets, eye drops, and nasal sprays. These can provide relief of symptoms and eye drops and nasal sprays can treat specific symptoms.

You can buy over the counter hay fever medicines from the shop section of our website. At Simple Online Pharmacy, we also offer an online doctor service for hay fever