Health Diary: Hay fever

Hay Fever Symptoms: Triggers, Complications, and Treatment

Health Diary: Hay fever

Hay fever is a common condition that affects close to 18 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also known as allergic rhinitis or nasal allergies, hay fever can be seasonal, perennial (year-long), or occupational. Rhinitis refers to irritation or inflammation of the nose.

Symptoms commonly include:

  • runny nose
  • nasal congestion
  • sneezing
  • watery, red, or itchy eyes
  • coughing
  • itchy throat or roof of the mouth
  • postnasal drip
  • itchy nose
  • sinus pressure and pain
  • itchy skin

Symptoms may become long-term if hay fever is untreated.

Read more: Diagnosing a hay fever cough »

Read on to learn more about hay fever symptoms and how to manage or treat them.

Although the symptoms of hay fever and the symptoms of a cold can feel similar, the biggest difference is that a cold will cause a fever and body aches. Treatments for both condition are also very different.

Read more about the differences between allergies and colds »

Other conditions

Other conditions with symptoms similar to hay fever:

  • head cold
  • infective rhinitis, includes upper respiratory tract infection
  • irritant rhinitis, reaction to physical changes or chemicals
  • sinusitis

Un hay fever, these conditions can also cause fevers.

Hay fever is extremely common in children, though they rarely develop before 3 years of age. But it’s important to treat allergy symptoms, especially in infants and children.

Serious hay fever symptoms can develop into long-term health conditions asthma, sinusitis, or chronic ear infections.

Recent studies show that genetics may indicate whether or not your child will develop asthma alongside hay fever.

Younger children may have more trouble dealing with hay fever symptoms. It can affect their concentration and sleeping patterns. Sometimes the symptoms get confused with the common cold. But your child won’t have a fever they might with the cold and the symptoms will persist beyond a few weeks.

Hay fever symptoms often start immediately after you’re exposed to a specific allergen. Having these symptoms for more than a few days can cause:

  • clogged ears
  • sore throat
  • decreased sense of smell
  • headaches
  • allergic shiners, or dark circles under the eyes
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • puffiness under the eyes

Do you have a rash from hay fever? »

Experiencing these symptoms over time can have a negative effect on:

  • sleep quality
  • asthma symptoms
  • quality of life as symptoms may make activities less enjoyable, or cause you to be less productive at work and school, or even require you to stay home from work or school
  • ear infections, especially in children
  • eyes, or allergic conjunctivitis, which occurs when the allergen irritates the membrane over your eye
  • sinus inflammation, which can become sinusitis due to persistent congestion

Some patients say that hay fever feels a cold, especially if it continues for a long period of time and symptoms get worse.

Hay fever symptoms usually start right after you’re exposed to the allergen. Allergens can be indoors or outdoors seasonally or year-long.

Common allergens include:

  • pollen
  • mold or fungi
  • pet fur or dander
  • dust mites
  • cigarette smoke
  • perfume

These allergens will trigger your immune system, which mistakenly identifies the substance as something harmful. In response to this, your immune system produces antibodies to defend your body. Antibodies signal your blood vessels to widen and for your body to produce inflammatory chemicals, histamine. It’s this response that causes hay fever symptoms.

Genetic factors

The lihood of developing allergies also increases if someone in your family has allergies. This study found that if parents have allergy-related diseases, it increases the chances of their children developing hay fever. Asthma, and eczema that isn’t allergy-related, don’t affect your risk factor for hay fever.

Your symptoms may vary depending on the time of the year, where you live, and what types of allergies you have. Knowing these factors can help you prepare for your symptoms. Early springtime often affects people with seasonal allergies, but nature blooms at different times of the year. For example:

  • Tree pollen is more common in the early spring.
  • Grass pollen is more common in late spring and summer.
  • Ragweed pollen is more common in the fall.
  • Pollen allergies can be worse on hot, dry days when the wind carries the pollen.

But your hay fever symptoms may appear all year round, if you’re allergic to indoor allergens. Indoor allergens include:

  • dust mites
  • pet dander
  • cockroaches
  • mold and fungal spores

Sometimes symptoms for these allergens can appear seasonally too. Allergies to mold spores tend to be worse during warmer or more humid weather.

Hay fever symptoms can also be made worse by other irritants. This is because hay fever causes inflammation in the lining of the nose and makes your nose more sensitive to irritants in the air.

These irritants include:

  • wood smoke
  • air pollution
  • tobacco smoke
  • wind
  • aerosol sprays
  • strong odors
  • changes in temperature
  • changes in humidity
  • irritating fumes

The symptoms of hay fever are almost never immediately dangerous. Allergy testing isn’t required during diagnosis for hay fever. You should see a doctor if your symptoms aren’t responding to over-the-counter (OTC) medications. You can ask your doctor, or specialist, for an allergy test if you’re interested in learning the exact cause of your allergy.

See your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Your symptoms last longer than a week and are bothersome to you.
  • OTC allergy medications aren’t helping you.
  • You have another condition, asthma, that is making your hay fever symptoms worse.
  • Hay fever occurs all year round.
  • Your symptoms are severe.
  • The allergy medications you’re taking are causing bothersome side effects.
  • You are interested in learning if allergy shots or immunotherapy is a good option for you.

Home treatments and plans are available to help reduce your symptoms. You can reduce the chances of coming in contact with dust and mold by cleaning and airing out your rooms regularly. For outdoor allergies, you can download Poncho, a weather app that tells you what the pollen count is, as well as the wind speed.

Other lifestyle changes include:

  • keeping windows closed to prevent pollen from coming in
  • wearing sunglasses to cover your eyes when you’re outdoors
  • using a dehumidifier to control mold
  • washing hands after petting animals or interacting with them in an airy space

To relieve congestion, try using a neti pot or saline sprays. These options can also reduce postnasal drip, which contributes to sore throats.

Treatment options for children include:

  • eye drops
  • saline nasal rinses
  • nondrowsy antihistamines
  • allergy shots, which are most often given to children 5 years old and older

Read about the best ways to treat seasonal allergies »

Cooking or seasoning foods or drinks with turmeric may also be effective. Turmeric contains anti-allergic and natural decongestant properties. Studies found that turmeric suppresses allergic reactions.

Other alternative treatments have less evidence of their benefits, but some people feel a difference after incorporating these foods in their diet. These foods include:

  • shrub butterbur, PA-free
  • spirulina
  • capsicum
  • vitamin C
  • fish oil

Honey is also thought to help lessen seasonal allergies. Those allergic to bees should not consume unprocessed honey. If nothing else, honey may help soothe a sore or scratchy throat.


Many nondrowsy antihistamines are now available over the counter. You may be able to prevent symptoms from developing if you take them before the pollen is in the air. Ask your pharmacist what will work best for you. You may need prescription medication if your symptoms are severe. These may include immunotherapy, or allergy shots.


Why are so many people suddenly suffering from hay fever in middle age?

Health Diary: Hay fever

At first, I put my symptoms down to a summer cold that just went on and on. Then, I assumed the wretched itching throat was an allergy to chlorine at the local outdoor pool. But it never occurred to me that I could have developed hay fever in midlife. Surely allergies are set in our childhood?

Yet, four years on from the first intimation that I acquired an allergy to grass, tree or weed pollen – or possibly all three – I have had to accept that I am one of the growing number of middle-aged Britons who are developing hay fever.

Traffic fumes have been blamed for the spread of “urban hayfever”; allergens and pollution work together, enhancing the other’s responsiveness which creates more symptoms

Indeed, experts from the charity Allergy UK are warning that the rise in numbers of “new” older sufferers is so explosive, by 2030 more than 30 million Britons could be suffering allergy symptoms.

Anecdotally, says Hasan Arshad, Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Southampton, it is certainly true that more patients are presenting with hay fever this way. “No studies have looked at the onset of hay fever in midlife, but we are definitely seeing more people coming into the clinic.”

The pollen count is on the increase

So what do those of us with adult-onset hay fever need to know?

Why have I been hit by hay fever in mid-life?

“Our immune systems are there to react to foreign proteins that get into the body,” says Prof Arshad. “No one is born with allergies – although there may be a tendency to develop an allergy when you are exposed to an allergen and then develop a response. Pollen won’t be a new allergen, as such, but your ability to tolerate it will have changed.

“Moreover, it may be related to our cleaner environment. A rounded person is exposed to microbes, bacteria and viruses, which help develop a stronger immune system. If you don’t have that, you can go into middle-age a bit more vulnerable.”

Holly Shaw, an Allergy UK Nurse Advisor, adds: “It is possible to become sensitised to aero-allergens such as pollen at any point. Individual exposure will depend on environmental factors, for example, where an individual lives plus their exposure to pollen, the time of year and their occupation.”

Is the pollen count on the increase?

Definitely, says Prof Arshad. “We have proof of that, from our research centre on the Isle of Wight. It’s not just daily averages that have risen, but also in the number of days when pollen exceeds a certain limit.”

So it may be that for many people, previous levels of pollen were too low to trigger a response.

The main release for tree pollen is from late March to mid-MayCredit:Matthew Ashmore / Alamy Stock Photo

The hay fever season – or rather seasons, depending on the allergens that triggers your reaction – is longer than you might think. The main release for tree pollen is from late March to mid-May; for grass pollen (which affects 95 per cent of all hay fever sufferers) from mid-May to July; for weed pollen, it’s from the end of June to September.

Hay fever sufferer, you can’t hide in town. “Built-up areas can still be problematic,” says Shaw. “Cityscapes are planted with trees and grasses that have high pollen. Pollen can also be transferred into urban areas by the wind.”

Traffic fumes have also been blamed for the spread of “urban hay fever”; allergens and pollution work together, enhancing the other’s responsiveness which creates more symptoms.

Dr Jean Emberlin, Scientific Director of Allergy UK, has warned: “Fumes containing nitric oxide which, when breathed in, stops hair- projections in the nose from clearing away mucus, keep people feeling bunged up and miserable.”

The general population shift, from rural to urban communities, has also been associated with an increase in allergies. In China, 30 years ago, only one or two per cent of the population had allergies, such as hay fever. But now the Chinese population is rapidly catching up with the western world. 

Does climate change have a hand in this?

Climate change may be influencing plant growth and pollen counts

Dr Emberlin has linked gradual global warming to increased risk of hay fever: “As summers become warmer,” she has said, “more photochemical smogs will occur on dry days, resulting in an increased frequency of days with high concentrations of ozone, nitrous oxides and other pollutants that will make symptoms worse, and that will make people more susceptible to allergens.

Due to climate change in the future, plant growth may be influenced in a way that more, new and altered pollens are produced, which may affect humans.”

What medication works?

Mild pollen allergy can be controlled with standard over-the-counter antihistamines – but which one will work best for you? One of the earliest antihistamines, chlorphenamine (brand name Piriton) is effective at reducing the symptoms of hay fever, but can be very sedating. Newer, or “second-generation”, antihistamines developed in the early Eighties are less ly to cause drowsiness.

If your hay fever is only sporadic, such as when the pollen count is particularly high, a cheap, one-a-day remedy such as loratadine (brand name Claritin) is a good option for short-term relief. 

For those who need to take something for the duration of their hay fever season, there is cetirizine (brand name Zirtec), a stronger, nominally non-drowsy second-generation antihistamine, but whose side effects can include dry mouth, headache and sleepiness. 

For longer-term, daily allergy symptoms, you’ll do better with a battalion of pills, nasal steroids and eye drops, which can all be bought over the counter and will help to decrease certain asthma and allergy symptoms.

For the 10-to-20 per cent of those with hay fever people whose symptoms can’t be controlled using these types of medication, immunotherapy is increasingly being offered. This means re-educating the immune system by introducing it to purified versions of the pollen.

Patients are either offered four injections before the pollen season begins for three years running, or a one-a-day tablet such as Grazax, which is taken under the tongue, also for three years. “This is very effective,” says Prof Arshad. “It induces remission long-term.”

Professor Stephen Durham, Head of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial and clinical lead for allergy services at Royal Brompton Hospital – who led a recent study into the therapy, published in February in the journal JAMA – said: “You treat patients for three years, and then they have a big improvement in their hay fever for several years afterwards. Exposing people to grass pollen in this way is a very effective treatment for people who really have debilitating hay fever.” Anyone interested in trying the therapy should ask the GP for a referral to an allergy clinic.

Should I change my diet?

Prof Arshad does not believe that giving up specific foods, such as dairy, helps alleviate hay fever symptoms. Certain foods, however, can cross-react with allergens in the air. For example, apples cross-react with birch pollen to cause oral allergy symptoms (itchy mouth, swollen tongue).

Medical herbalist Dee Atkinson suggests using a purified nasal spray containing extract of Luffa operculata, a medical plant more commonly known as sponge cucumber, which is said to help control sneezing and nasal discharge; try A Vogel’s Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray (£7.99, 20ml).

Possibly. A 2010 University of Worcester study compiled by Prof Emberlin for the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Group found that hay fever sufferers who did the most exercise (more than five 30-minute sessions a week) were the most ly to report mild symptoms. Only 19 per cent of hay fever sufferers take the recommended amount of exercise, with 24 per cent doing no exercise.

But do be sensible, warns Shaw, and watch for high pollen count days. “People choosing to exercise during the months where the pollen counts are high may choose to exercise inside or plan activities around days when the pollen count is predicted to be high.”

Does stress make symptoms worse?

The same study found that as stress levels fall, so do severity of symptoms. Sixteen per cent of those with low stress levels found their symptoms to be “mild or barely noticeable”, compared to just six per cent of those with the highest stress levels. The stress hormone cortisol may be to blame as it affects the immune system directly, possibly making symptoms last longer.

I’ve heard that taking honey helps. How?

Is honey a cure for hay fever?

A traditional remedy for hay fever, some swear by it – especially if the honey is local. The idea is that the pollen will desensitise you against your allergen.

Unfortunately, allergist Dr Adam Fox from St Thomas’s Hospital in London, is skeptical: “Looking at scientific studies, unfortunately, there isn’t good evidence that pollen-rich honey is a beneficial treatment.”

What about putting Vaseline up my nose?

Allergy UK suggests that applying an effective allergen barrier balm – such as gel nasal sprays, Haymax or, at a push, a smidge of Vaseline – around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens and other allergens can help prevent a reaction.

“These work because pollen can’t interact with or trigger your airway lining,” says Prof Arshad. You’ll be less ly to suffer a sneezing attack – but you may find strangers offering you tissues, saying: “I think you’ve got a little something on your face…”.


Tips for surviving hayfever


Hayfever — practical management issues

Health Diary: Hay fever

IN this month's Journal Owen et al1 compare the effectiveness of topical treatments, namely mast cell stabilisers (cromoglycate, nedocromil and lodoxamide) with topical antihistamines (azelastine, emedastine, antazoline and levocabastine) for the treatment of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. They conclude that both are effective groups, but that there is insufficient evidence as to whether the benefits of potentially faster treatment with topical antihistamines are worthwhile. The importance of patient preference in deciding on treatment options is noted.

Patients with allergic conjunctivitis or rhinitis present at varying times. Some sufferers experience symptoms in April, when tree pollens are abundant. For others, symptoms start with the onset of the grass pollen season, usually in May.

2 Grass pollen is the chief allergen, some weed pollens also cause problems and fungal spores may be a factor at the end of the summer. The start of the pollen season varies with weather conditions and is generally later with northward progression.

In some years, hay fever is particularly troublesome, for example in 1992.2 This is chiefly because the somewhat fickle weather in the United Kingdom (UK) profoundly affects the level of airborne pollen and smaller fragments of allergenic material, known as paucimicronic particles.

The latter have been implicated in exacerbations of asthma around the time of thunderstorms.3 This editorial was written at the end of a very wet April and, so far, hay fever rates are low in the North and average in the South.4 Peak incidence is in school age children and declines with age.

A recent publication suggests that hay fever is declining in severity,5 a finding in keeping with reduced asthma attacks resulting in hospital admissions or presentation to general practitioners.6

Typical hay fever symptoms include sneezing, rhinorrhoea and irritating, watery eyes. A third of patients presenting with hay fever also report wheeziness.7 Peaks of asthma incidence have been described that are synchronous with hay fever8 and these are particularly obvious in children and young adults.

For the vast majority of sufferers, hay fever is relatively mild and very few patients are referred to secondary care.

Hay fever is a huge pyramid of disease, those at the base experiencing relatively mild symptoms, whereas a smaller group at the top are considerably in-capacitated, with disruption of education, especially at exam time, and of work.

It is estimated that as many as one in five people suffer from hay fever, but only 1–2% consult a general practitioner each year.2 The rate of consultations with general practitioners increased during the 1970s and 1980s,2,9 but there is evidence of a downward trend over the last 10 years.4

In the UK many patients self medicate, particularly adults who pay for their prescriptions.

Unless relatively large quantities of medication are required, the cost of a prescription and the inconvenience of a trip to the doctor further encourage patients to seek advice from a pharmacist.

Additionally, prescriptions are often authorised without consultation where patients have consulted in previous years. Most patients consult having already experienced symptoms, rather than in anticipation of the forthcoming hay fever season.7

The challenge for the patient and the general practitioner is to pitch treatment at an appropriate level for their anticipated disease severity, without risking side effects more serious than the disease.

PRODIGY guidance10 includes a classification of the severity of allergic rhinitis, but it is difficult to attach much therapeutic relevance to this.

For example, mild allergic rhinitis is defined as ‘symptoms are not troublesome and normal activities, such as sleep, sport, leisure, work and school, are unaffected’. It is difficult to imagine a patient in this category requesting treatment.

Management should be tailored to each individual patient, their previous experience of the condition, the effectiveness of treatments tried previously, the severity of current symptoms and the timing in relation to the hay fever season.

The tendency of many patients to grow their hay fever,11 or at least to have periods of remission, should be put into the equation.

Awareness of ly prevailing pollen levels and simple advice on minimising exposure to pollen is potentially useful (see Box 1), but some of these suggestions may be excessive for all but the most severe sufferers.

Box 1. General allergen avoidance measures.12

  • Avoid picnics, camping, cutting the grass
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses when outdoors, showering and washing hair on return from the countryside
  • Ensure pets are washed (preferably not by the hay fever sufferer)
  • Holiday by the seaside or in mountainous regions
  • Close bedroom windows
  • Do not drive with car windows open and consider having a car with a pollen filter

Those with a history of severe symptoms and a history of concurrent asthma exacerbations should be treated with regular medication for both conditions and have a clear plan of action to deal with a worsening of their asthma.

It has been advocated that prophylactic treatment (topical nasal corticosteroids and sodium cromoglycate eye drops) should be started 2–3 weeks before the pollen season to prevent priming by allergen.

12 However, regular use of two preparations and the probable addition of oral antihistamines over several months should be restricted to those ly to have severe symptoms. For most patients with relatively minor symptoms medication is used as necessary and more regularly during the peak periods.

Conventional treatments for hay fever are well tolerated by most people. Antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids such as beclometasone and fluticasone are the usual treatment options; the latter are particularly useful in reducing nasal congestion.

There is little evidence that the newer third generation antihistamines, such as desloratadine or levocetirizine, confer benefit over second generation versions such as loratadine and cetirizine.

13 Antihistamines in current use have a good safety profile, but drowsiness may occur, particularly with some of the older products such as chlorpheniramine. Topical nasal or eye treatments have relatively few reported side effects, but there are potential problems with long-term usage of corticosteroid nasal sprays, especially in children.

Recent examples of serious problems with treatments should not be forgotten; terfenadine and astemizole were withdrawn because of concerns regarding cardiac arrhythmia, in particular torsade de pointes, which is potentially fatal.

Desensitising injections are now only given in centres where full cardiorespiratory resuscitation facilities are available because of a number of reported deaths in the early 1980s.

Depot corticosteroid injections are less frequently used because their effects cannot be reversed and skin atrophy or abscess formation may occur. Short courses of oral corticosteroids may be very useful in severe exacerbations of hay fever, but their significant side effect profile must be borne in mind.

Prolonged use of oral corticosteroids should be avoided if at all possible; immune system suppression may occur, which is a particular concern in relation to chicken pox in younger persons.

The herbal treatment ‘butterbur’ attracted attention recently, when it was found to be as effective as cetirizine for the short-term treatment of pollen related rhinitis.14 However, ‘more data on safety are required because hepatotoxic alkaloids had been removed from the butterbur extract used in the trial’.10

Age, seasonal variation and weather conditions all influence hay fever. Thus, a dynamic and flexible approach to management is required, particularly for those with mild symptoms. These concepts can be discussed at a consultation to establish an appropriate management plan to cover different eventualities. This is ly to be time well spent.

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5. Anderson R, Ruggles R, Strachan D, et al. Trends in prevalence of symptoms of asthma, hay fever, and eczema in 12–14 year olds in the British Isles, 1995–2002: questionnaire survey. BMJ. 2004;328:1052–1053. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

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Health Diary: Hay fever

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances in the air we breathe and food we eat.

Some allergy triggers are easier to identify, and avoid, than others. The most common is pollen, which lets fly in spring, while mould spores, dust mites and pet dander aspire to torment us all year round.

These airborne triggers are all known to cause allergic rhinitis, or ‘hayfever’, characterised by sneezing, a runny nose, headache and itching of the nose, eyes, roof of the mouth and back of the throat.

Airborne substances can also cause wheezing or allergic asthma.

Here are our top tips for avoiding these everyday allergens and the foggy haze they propel us into.

Pollen is produced by plants for reproductive purposes. Depending on the type of plant, pollen will either travel through the air in order to fertilise other plants, or be carried there by bees and other insects.

It’s the airborne pollen that often finds its way into your home, car, clothes, and even your nose and throat, instead of reaching its rightful destination. Pollen counts are at their highest in the morning, and worse on hot, sunny days.

With that in mind, you could…

  • Plan outdoor activities for the afternoon.
  • Have a shower after time spent outside (to wash off pollen from your skin and hair).
  • Avoid hanging clothes and bedsheets outside to dry, as they’ll collect pollen.
  • Consider planting a ‘low-allergen’ garden made up of brightly-coloured flowers that should attract bees and other insects to transfer pollen (so that it doesn’t become airborne).

Mould is a fungus that releases tiny spores into the air, which, pollen grains, can attach to your skin and clothing, or enter your home through open windows and doors.

Mould thrives in warm, humid environments, and can be found outside in moist, shady areas or under dying vegetation, as well as inside a home, in bathrooms, basements, window sills and anywhere that harbours moisture. Mould can also grow in wardrobes (leaving a musty smell on clothes and linen) when cupboards are too crammed or inadequately ventilated. To prevent mould, you should…

  • Prevent high levels of humidity in the home by using dehumidifiers and extractor fans – humidity should be kept below 40%.
  • Don’t allow towels to remain damp, either between use or after a wash; dry them immediately so they don’t invite mould.
  • Limit numbers of indoor plants, as the soil can attract mould.
  • Attend to any leaks seeping through the ceiling or walls, by checking
  • the roofing, spouting and piping in your house.
  • In the garden avoid using mulch, including bark, sticks, dried leaves and compost – all of which retain moisture and harbour mould.
  • Eliminate mould as soon as you see it, with appropriate bleaches and inhibitors, so it doesn’t reproduce by releasing more mould spores into the air.

FOR PET ALLERGY:Most pet allergies are associated with cats – a pet most of us would rather snuggle up with, than avoid.

People aren’t so much allergic to cat hair, but the proteins found in their skin, saliva and urine; so if you worry about cat hair on your clothes or bedding, it pays to also think about the allergens that you can’t see, such as cat dander (skin flakes) embedded in the carpet or furniture.

If removing a pet really isn’t an option, try to…

  • Keep the pet the house if possible, or at least the bedroom.
  • Wash your pet more frequently if your vet agrees you can.
  • Vacuum carpets and furniture at least twice a week, although pet allergens are notoriously difficult to remove; removing carpet might be the
  • easier option.

Dust mites live and feed off the dust in your home, which is mainly made up of the skin cells you shed every day (as well as mould spores, pet dander and other undesirables).

Dust mites enjoy warm, humid environments and to nestle in carpets, bedding and mattresses, curtains and furniture – just about anywhere they can get comfortable.

If the thought of them just being there is bad enough, we hasten to add that it’s not the dustmites themselves that make us allergic, but in fact their droppings. To control dust mites…

  • Remove ‘dust collectors’ from your home or at least from your bedroom – soft toys, wall hangings, knick-knacks, papers and books, decorative cushions and unnecessary shelving.
  • Dust all surfaces with a damp cloth two to three times a week.
  • Wash your bed linen every week in hot water to kill existing dust mites. Drying them in a hot tumble-dryer will also help.
  • Use dust-proof mattress and pillow covers to provide a barrier between you and the dust mites.
  •  Keep your home dry – mites cannot survive in under 50% humidity.

Of course, taking all these measures won’t necessarily keep you allergy-free, but may help minimise the impact of allergens on your everyday life.

For a more fail-proof solution to your allergy woes, ask your pharmacist for an effective hayfever treatment that can relieve symptoms and prevent their onset in the first place.


Health Diary: Hay fever

Health Diary: Hay fever

For most of us, Spring is a beautiful time of year – flowers, sunshine and baby animals. But for people with hay fever , also known as allergic rhinitis – the arrival of September is not something to be sneezed at. In fact – it affects around 18% of Australians and New Zealanders.

So what exactly is it?  Well surprise surprise it’s not caused by hay nor does it result in a fever, and it’s not in response to a food allergy.   When you have hay fever your immune system is reacting to usually harmless airborne substances, such as pollens, or grasses in the spring months; and pet hair, dust mites or mould all year round.

Hay fever is an allergic response to these ‘triggers’ causing the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose to become inflamed.

Common symptoms include:

  • nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing or a stuffy nose.
  • eyes can be itchy, puffy, red or watery.
  • you may breathe through your mouth and wheeze.

Other less common symptoms are:

  • coughing, headaches, ear aches,  and throat irritation.
  • sleep disturbance, and fatigue can affect your concentration

It’s important to be aware that untreated hay fever may increase the risk of developing asthma.  And if you have asthma it’s vital you get your hay fever under control as it can make your asthma worse.

Hay fever is most common in adolescents, but luckily most will grow it. However some people will continue to  suffer from allergies well into their old age, and must learn the best way to prevent it and reduce symptoms.

Diagnosis of hay fever is usually straightforward with a history and examination. Sometimes blood or allergy skin tests are used to identify triggers.

Skin testing involves pricking the skin on your back or arm with tiny tubes that contain common allergens to see how your skin reacts. If you are allergic your skin will get red, swollen and itchy at the test site.

If the allergen is confirmed than avoidance where possible is key to controlling your symptoms.

Treatment for hay fever is a mixture of self-care and medications nasal corticosteroids .

Self care means trying to avoid the triggers that can cause allergic reactions:

  • In your garden, choose plants that are pollinated by birds or insects – rather than those that release seeds into the air
  • Reduce your exposure to dust, dust mites, animals and fur – dusting with a damp cloth and vacuuming regularly will help

If you are allergic to grass pollen in particular, ‘avoiding’ it can be very difficult. Here some tips that may help –

  • Avoid being outdoors on high pollen days, and on extremely windy days
  • Shower after outdoor activities – especially when pollen is high
  • Use re-circulated air in the car when pollen levels are high
  • Avoid activities known to exacerbate pollen exposure – such as lawn mowing
  • Wear sunglasses – it keeps pollen your eyes
  • Dry your bedding, towels and clothing inside, or in a tumble drier.

But if something triggers hay fever –

  • Splash your eyes with cold water to flush out any allergens
  • And try ‘nasal washing’ which involves rinsing the inside of the nose with warm salty water to flush out irritants and excess mucus.

Medications do not cure hay fever but medications    intranasal corticosteroid sprays are often the most effective when used regularly for managing hay fever.  They reduce the inflammation that produces symptoms.  Antihistamines may help too. But it’s important to consult your doctor to see which medication is best for you.

There is also the medical procedure of ‘desensitization’ or allergen immunotherapy – which involves reducing the allergic reaction by gradual exposure to the allergen via injection, tablets or drops under the tongue.  This is a long term treatment usually lasting 3 to 5 years and supervised by an immunologist or allergy specialist.

If you or anyone you know suffers from any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to consult with your doctor. Getting the right treatment and avoiding triggers where possible is key.

Last Reviewed: 09/09/2019



Patient hay-fever diary and personal symptom forecast | Request PDF

Health Diary: Hay fever

Since 2009 the web based Patient’s Hay-fever Diary (PHD, has been used in ten European countries by over 25,000 users.

PHD allows users to document their pollen-induced symptoms of nose, eyes and bronchi, as well as their overall health, the medication used and their location. Regional pollen data supplied by the European Aeroallergen Network (https://ean.polleninfo.

eu/Ean/) allows analysis between pollen counts and pollen-induced symptoms.The correlation of pollen count data and pollen-induced symptoms enables determinations of personal threshold values for all major pollen species such as birch, grass and ragweed (i.e.

the number of pollen grains recorded in the region that are needed to induce allergic symptoms). The severity of organ-specific symptoms for the nose, eye and bronchi can be predicted using the combined results of PHD and a forecast for atmospheric concentrations of allergenic pollen.

This personal pollen information (PPI) can then be sent to the user via a newly developed application (APP) for mobile devices. This will aid hay fever sufferers to avoid exposure to atmospheric concentrations of allergenic pollen and help them plan medication.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.

February 2013 · Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

  • Uwe E. Berger

RATIONALE: Pollen forecast is a valuable offer for hay-fever sufferer in many countries – but forecasting their individual pollen-induced symptoms would be more appreciated.METHODS: Since 2009 the web based Patient’s Hay-fever Diary (PHD, has been used in ten European countries by over 25.000 users. PHD allows users to document their pollen-induced symp- toms of nose, eyes … [Show full abstract] and bronchi, as well as their overall health, the medica- tion used and their location. Regional pollen data supplied by the European Aeroallergen Network ( allows analysis between pollen counts and pollen-induced symptoms.RESULTS: The correlation of pollen count data and pollen-induced symptoms enables us to determine personal threshold values for all major pollen species such as birch, grass and ragweed (i.e. the number of pollen grains recorded in the region that are needed to induce allergic symptoms). The severity of organ-specific symptoms for the nose, eye and bronchi can be predicted using the combined results of PHD and a forecast for atmospheric concentrations of allergenic pollen.

This personal pollen information (PPI) can then be sent to the user via a newly developed application (app) for mobile devices.CONCLUSIONS: This work heralds the dawn of the next generation of pollen information for PHD users, which can provide predictions of pollen- induced symptoms of nose, eye and bronchi with a forecast horizon of three days. This will aid hay fever sufferers to avoid exposure to atmospheric concentrations of allergenic pollen and help them plan medication.Read moreDiscover more