What is hay fever?

Hay fever is a seasonal form of allergic rhinitis caused by airborne substances (i.e. pollen). Rhinitis refers to the inflammation of the inside of the nose that causes congestion and the excess production of mucus.

It‘s also known as ‘hayfever’ because traditionally it used to occur during the ‘haying’ season.

What causes hay fever?

The airborne allergic substances or allergens cause a series of reactions in the lining of the nose that lead to symptoms such as sneezing, blocked or runny nose, itchy nose and eyes, cough and lethargy. Treatment is aimed at stopping these reactions from occurring to stop symptoms from developing. It’s as if the immune system is actually over-reacting to the presence of the allergen.

Stress, environmental factors such as pollution, smoking and diet can all impact how the body reacts to allergens. So while you perhaps weren’t bothered by hay fever in your younger years, you may get it at a later stage in life.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Symptoms of hay fever are similar to the common cold and include:

  • Runny and blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes

How can hay fever be treated?

Most people's experience of hay fever is mild and can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines or by using a saltwater solution to wash out your nasal passage. Consider wearing a surgical mask to prevent pollen from entering the nose.

For some people, their symptoms are more severe or are not treated by at-home solutions and so you should consult your GP who might be able to provide stronger medications.

Can I do anything to prevent hay fever?

Although it is difficult to completely avoid potential irritants, if you know what triggers your allergies you could take steps to reduce your exposure to them.