What is hay fever?
Allergies to tree, grass or weed pollen cause hay fever, which can make lung conditions like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) worse.
This is why it’s important to try and get your hay fever under control and see your GP or pharmacist if your hay fever symptoms do not go away or are getting worse.
Antihistamines are medicines that can help relieve hay fever symptoms and allergies. Most people with hay fever will be able to manage their symptoms themselves by taking antihistamines.
Antihistamines come in a lot of different forms, like tablets, nasal sprays, liquids, and eye drops. You may need to try different types to find one that works well for you. Your pharmacist can help you with this.
You may get drowsy (sleepy) on some antihistamines. Your pharmacist can tell you more about drowsy and non-drowsy antihistamines.
If you know when your hay fever symptoms usually start, it’s a good idea to begin taking antihistamines 2-4 weeks before this time. This will give you the best protection. You can take antihistamines throughout the pollen season.
The NHS has more information about antihistamines.
Hay fever treatments from your GP
You should see your GP if your hay fever symptoms:
- are getting worse
- do not improve after taking antihistamines.
Steroid nasal sprays use tiny amounts of steroids to reduce the swelling in your nose so you can breathe more easily. They can help to relieve symptoms like sneezing and a runny or blocked nose.
You can buy some types of steroid nasal sprays from shops like pharmacies and supermarkets, but others are only available through prescription. Your GP or pharmacist can tell you about the different types of nasal sprays.
If you know when your hay fever symptoms usually start, try to use a steroid nasal spray 1-2 weeks before. This will give you the best protection.
Am I taking my nasal spray properly?
If your nasal spray technique is right, it should not drip from your nose or down the back of your throat.
Check your technique with our short video.
If other hay fever treatments do not work for you, your GP may refer you to immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a specialist service, so it is not available everywhere.
Allergy UK has more information about immunotherapy.
Treating hay fever yourself
It’s impossible to avoid pollen altogether but there are things you can do to lower your risk.
You can check the pollen forecast on the Met Office website. Below are some things you can do if the pollen count is high:
- Manage your lung condition well. If you have preventer (or maintenance) medicines, take them every day as prescribed even if you feel well.
- Wear a mask, wraparound sunglasses, or a hat with a large brim. This will help to stop pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Always keep your reliever (or rescue) inhaler with you, especially if the pollen count is high.
- Shower and change your clothes when you come home, this will wash off any pollen.
- Use a saltwater nasal spray or solution to rinse the inside of your nose.
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible.
- Vacuum and dust regularly.
Try to avoid
- Keeping fresh flowers where you live.
- Drying your clothes outside, they could get pollen on them.
- Cutting grass or walking on grass if the pollen count is high.
- Spending too much time outside on very high pollen count days.
- Tobacco smoke as it can make your symptoms worse. If you smoke, get help to stop smoking.