How to prepare for hay fever season

Are you feeling the effects of the high pollen season? Read our top tips for managing hay fever symptoms.

Are you feeling the effects of the high pollen season? Read our top tips for managing hay fever symptoms. 
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common allergies in the UK - and it's on the rise. The number of people affected by hay fever has trebled in the last 30 years [1]. Experts now estimate that it affects almost 49% of Brits [2]. 
Hay fever is exceptionally common. During hay fever season, managing symptoms (like sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose, and itchy eyes) can help you enjoy the full potential that spring and summer offer.  
So, with the Met Office reporting that hay fever season will last from March to October this year, our guide aims to help you manage your troublesome symptoms [3]. 


What is hay fever?


Hay fever is an allergic reaction when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. The most common allergen is pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds. This fine powder can cause a reaction (if you're allergic to pollen, of course) and it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes, or throat.  
Hay fever allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people may experience year-round symptoms, while others may only experience symptoms of allergic rhinitis during specific times of the year.  
Other airborne allergens like house dust mites, mould spores, and pet dander can also cause an immune reaction. 


Why do I get hay fever symptoms? 


If you're sensitive to these outdoor allergens, your body will release histamine into your bloodstream. This release of histamine causes a runny nose, sneezing, and watering eyes. 

Grass pollen is the most common allergen. Out of the people in the UK with hay fever, 95% are allergic to grass pollen [4]. Some people are just allergic to one type of pollen, while others can be allergic to all three different types of pollen. 


When do hay fever symptoms peak? 


Hay fever symptoms usually peak when it's warm, humid, and windy. This weather combination peaks the pollen count and therefore worsens or brings on symptoms. 
The pollen season splits into three main phases: 

  1. Tree pollen: late March to mid-May 
  2. Grass pollen: mid-May to July 
  3. Weed pollen: end of June to September [5]

Stay updated on pollen levels by downloading the Met Office weather app and enabling pollen notifications for daily updates. 

What are the symptoms of hay fever?  


In spring and summer, pollen travels in the air and can cause symptoms like nasal congestion and an itchy throat.  

Symptoms of hay fever include: 

  • A runny or blocked nose - similar to the common cold 
  • Itchy, watery eyes 
  • Sneezing 
  • Coughing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Earache 
  • Loss of smell 
  • Pain around your temples and forehead 

What's the difference between hay fever and a cold? 


Hay fever shares many symptoms with that of a common cold. You can usually tell the difference between the two by how long the symptoms last. A cold lasts one to two weeks, while hay fever can last for weeks or months. 
We're also more susceptible to colds and flu from November to March, rather than in spring and summer. You can learn more about the difference between flu and cold in our blog: flu vs cold: what's the difference? 


How to treat hay fever yourself  


While there is no cure for hay fever, there are things you can do to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high. 
Firstly, visit your local pharmacist. They can give you the most suitable treatments, like antihistamine drops, tablets, or nasal sprays [6]. 

Tips to manage hay fever: 

  • Avoid alcohol as it contains histamine 
  • Avoid smoking (or being around people smoking) as it can irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat, and airways 
  • Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter 
  • Don't buy fresh flowers for the house and avoid cutting or walking on grass 
  • Dry your clothes inside where possible as they can catch pollen when dried outside 
  • Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible when the pollen count is high 
  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen 
  • Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off 
  • Stay indoors whenever possible 
  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth 
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen from getting into your eyes 

Can you have a blood test for hay fever? 


Your doctor can usually diagnose you with hay fever by assessing your symptoms and medical history [7]. 
Firstly, your doctor will ask you about the severity, type, and timing of your symptoms. They might also do a physical exam to look for a stuffy nose, swelling, and other signs of hay fever. 
If their findings are inconclusive, you may benefit from an allergy test. Allergy tests can include skin prick tests or blood tests (specifically, IgE antibody tests) to identify specific allergens triggering your symptoms. 


Medichecks allergy blood tests 


If you live in the UK and are experiencing symptoms of an allergy, such as hives, vomiting, and lip or facial swelling, our Allergy Screen (UK) Blood Test may be for you.  
You can check two mixes of allergens (wheat grasses and foods) and several common single allergens, such as cat dander, dog dander, and house dust mites.  
This test looks for IgE reactions to the following substances, which are common causes of allergy in the UK:  

  • Food mix: cow’s milk, egg white, soya bean, peanut, wheat  
  • Grass mix: cocksfoot meadow, fescue meadow, rye timothy  
  • Individual allergens: cat dander, Cladosporium herbarium, dog dander, house dust mite, latex  
  • Fish: cod 


Related tests

Allergy Screen (UK) Blood Test

See if you could be allergic to some of the most common allergens in the United Kingdom (UK)

  • Results estimated in 5 working days
  • 2 biomarkers