Hay fever is an allergy to pollen (typically grass or tree) that can cause symptoms of itchy eyes, nose and throat along with sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes. These symptoms occur in hay fever season which is typically from the end of March to July but varies depending on where you are in the country and whether your allergy is to grass pollen or tree pollen. Tree pollen tends to be earlier in the Spring such as March to May, and grass pollen tends to be later in the summer June to July. Hay fever is very common with around 20% of the people in the UK suffering from it at some point in their life, however, it most commonly starts as a child or in the teenage years. It can run in families and you are more likely to have hay fever if you also suffer from asthma and/or eczema. Hay fever is not contagious.
You can check the pollen level in the air by going onto the government’s met office pollen forecast. If it is high in your area then there are lots of self-treatment options to help with your symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, you could choose to remain indoors and avoid pollen. If this is not possible, when you do go outdoors you could try wearing wrap-around sunglasses, avoid activities with grass or pollen such as cutting grass, and when you come back inside try to shower and wash your hair and clothes. You can get a pollen filter for your car vents and you should avoid having the car windows open. Your pharmacist can advise you on lots of very effective treatment options and advice. There are a wide range of over-the-counter medications such as antihistamine tablets, antihistamine nasal sprays, or steroid nasal sprays.
People suffering from hay fever and allergies may suffer from the full spectrum of symptoms associated with this, or only with just one. In most cases, it is advisable to take a stepwise approach. Taking an antihistamine tablet will often be enough to bring down most of the symptoms such as sneezing, drying up a runny streaming nose, and itchy eyes. Any remaining symptoms such as sinus congestion, or red itchy eyes can be resolved by add on treatments such as a nasal spray, or eye drops as necessary. For some people, there may be a few restrictions over the counter on what can be used such as those who might be pregnant or who wear contact lenses. It is important that anyone who is pregnant tries drug-free treatments first, such as sea-salt based nasal sprays, and avoid taking any medication without speaking to a doctor or midwife first. Not all eye drops are suitable for those wearing contact lenses, so it is important to check the product information carefully when deciding what to use.
You are fit for work if you have hay fever.
You should book a routine visit with your doctor if you have used over the counter medications from the pharmacy for 2 weeks and had no improvement or if your symptoms are getting worse. The doctor will ask you about your medical history and current symptoms. They may examine and listen to your chest depending on your symptoms. The doctor can prescribe different medications not available in the pharmacy or in some severe cases refer you for specialist input.