Hay fever

What is hay fever and what causes it?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Pollen is a fine powder from plants.

Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • sneezing and coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • loss of smell
  • pain around your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

If you have asthma, you might also:

  • have a tight feeling in your chest
  • be short of breath
  • wheeze and cough

Hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.

The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months. Your symptoms may start at different times of the year, depending on which types of pollen you are allergic to.

Most cases of hay fever can be treated using medication from a pharmacy or supermarket. By going to the pharmacy you’ll be saving yourself time, freeing up GP appointments for people with more urgent needs as well as doing your bit to help the NHS save money on unnecessary prescription costs. Your local pharmacist can offer you help and advice on which medication is right for you.

While symptoms of hay fever may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work.  You should see a GP if:

  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • your symptoms don’t improve after taking medicines from the pharmacy.

Other useful information:

Met Office – hay fever advice (information about hay fever and how to treat it)
The NHS website – hay fever (living with hay fever)

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