Top tips for surviving hay fever season

General Health

In the UK this summer, the Met Office has estimated that up to 20 million Brits could be more sensitised to hay fever symptoms due to unusually high pollen count.


Emily Condon
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

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Although waking up to the sunshine streaming through the curtains is a lovely feeling, for those who suffer from hay fever, this blissful feeling is bittersweet as they prepare for a day full of itchy eyes, sneezing constant and a runny nose. 

What is hay fever?

Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction to the pollen produced from grasses, trees or weeds that is carried in the air during the spring and summer months. The body releases histamine into the bloodstream which causes a runny nose, sneezing and watering eyes. Out of the people in the UK who suffer, 95% of these are allergic to grass pollen. Some people are just allergic to one type of pollen while others can be allergic to all 3 different types of pollen. 

The NHS says hay fever is at its peak between late March and early September. The pollen season is divided into three main phases:

  • Tree pollen: late March to mid-May
  • Grass pollen: mid-May to July
  • Weed pollen: end of June to September.

Symptoms of hay fever:

  • A runny or blocked nose 

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Coughing

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Earache

2018 has seen an exceptionally high pollen count thanks to a long winter forcing the plants that couldn’t flower earlier in the spring to bloom all at once. This mixed with a large amount of rainfall in the spring followed by weeks of good sunshine triggers a huge release of pollen from grass, plants and trees. 

This summer there has been an increased number of people suffering from ‘urban hay fever’. Despite living in the city, with limited green spaces nearby and spending the majority of their day in a high rise office block, this year's high pollen count is causing many to experience hay fever symptoms. This is thought to be down to the increasing levels of pollution that trap pollen from trees and grass at ground level. 

What can be done to ease the symptoms?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for hay fever but nasal sprays, eye drops and antihistamines can provide some relief. Seeing as pollen is the cause of hay fever, in an ideal world completely avoiding pollen is the best way to alleviate symptoms but this isn’t realistic. Keeping windows and doors closed, not keeping fresh flowers in the house, rubbing a small amount of vaseline in the nostrils and showering after going outside can all help to reduce the severity of hay fever symptoms.

If you suffer from hay fever, it is recommended that you avoid alcohol and smoking as alcohol contains histamine and smoking can irritate the lining of the nose, eyes, throat and airways.

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