What is hay fever?

Find out what hay fever is and how it can affect your lungs.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. The medical name for hay fever is seasonal allergic rhinitis. You can develop hay fever at any age.  

What is pollen?

Pollen is a tiny grain produced by plants. There are around 30 different types of pollen that can cause hay fever. You can be allergic to more than one type of pollen. 

The main types of pollen that cause hay fever are:

  • grass pollen
  • weed pollen
  • tree pollen.   

Use our pollen calendar

Our pollen calendar shows you when pollen levels are highest in the UK. Use our calendar to help you work out which type of pollen is causing your hay fever symptoms.

Download our pollen calendar

Hay fever symptoms

Hay fever symptoms include:

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

Hay fever is usually worse between March and September because this is when the pollen count is at its highest.    

When to see your GP

Pharmacists can give you advice and help you find a hay fever treatment that works for you.

See your GP if: 

  • your hay fever, asthma, or lung condition symptoms are getting worse
  • your symptoms do not improve after using hay fever treatments.

We know from calls to our helpline that it can be hard to get a GP appointment. If you need help, read our advice about getting in touch with your GP

Do I have hay fever or an infection?

The main difference is that hay fever symptoms can last for weeks or months. A cold or a chest infection usually lasts between 1 to 2 weeks.  

If you have an infection, you might cough up green or yellow phlegm. If you have hay fever your phlegm will usually be clear. 

Can hay fever affect asthma and other lung conditions?

Hay fever can affect your lung condition. In a recent survey, 1 in 3 people told us that pollen made their lung condition symptoms worse.

If you have hay fever it can trigger asthma symptoms like: 

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • a tight chest
  • shortness of breath.

Having hay fever and asthma can increase your risk of having an asthma attack.

Find out how to treat your hay fever so that it’s less likely to trigger an asthma attack.

If you have hay fever it can make COPD symptoms like coughing and wheezing worse and lead to a COPD flare-up.

Find out how to treat your hay fever so that it’s less likely to cause a COPD flare-up.

We know from calls to our helpline that hay fever affects people with all lung conditions, but there are not many scientific studies about this yet.

Find out how to treat your hay fever so that it’s less likely to cause a flare-up of your lung condition.

After reading this information, do you have a better understanding of how pollen and hay fever can affect your lung condition?

Get support

Call or WhatsApp our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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