Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life.
Symptoms may include:
- a runny nose
- itchy eyes
You'll experience symptoms if you have an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. It contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
You can have an allergy to:
- tree pollen, released during spring
- grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
- weed pollen, released late autumn
There's currently no cure, however, most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment, at least to a certain extent.
The most effective way to control hay fever would be to avoid exposure to pollen. However, it's very difficult to avoid pollen, particularly during the summer months when you want to spend more time outdoors. It can often be controlled using over-the-counter medication from your pharmacist. However, if your symptoms are more troublesome your pharmacist may advise you to contact your GP, as you may require prescription medication.
If it's severe and persistent, there's also a type of treatment called immunotherapy. It involves being exposed to small amounts of pollen over time, to build resistance to its allergic effects. However, this can take many months or even years to work. Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions. It's estimated that there are more than 10 million people with this allergy in England. You can get hay fever at any age, although it usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years. It's more common in boys than girls. In adults, men and women are equally affected.