Woman blowing her nose

What is hayfever?

Learn more about hayfever and the treatments

Streaming, itchy red eyes, sneezing fits, a blocked nose; when hayfever hits, it can be really disruptive to our day. One in five of us suffer from the condition, but what actually causes it and what can we do about it? Read our helpful guide below.

The causes of hayfever

Hayfever symptoms occur when the body has an allergic reaction to pollen. The three main types of pollen are: tree pollen (released during spring), grass pollen (spring and summer) or weed pollen (autumn). When sensing the allergen, our immune system goes into overdrive and the body naturally tries to protect itself, causing those nuisance symptoms. The nose, eyes and throat become swollen, irritated and inflamed which causes sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. Not what you want with spring gardening or a summer walk in mind.

The symptoms are especially severe when the pollen count is at its highest and can last for several weeks at a time. These can include:

- Sneezing and coughing

- Runny or blocked nose

- Itchy, red eyes

- Loss of smell

- Headache

- Feeling tired

- Earache

Can you develop hayfever?

Sadly, hayfever can be triggered at any age but you’re more likely to be susceptible to the condition if you have a family history of allergies, or if you suffer from asthma or eczema. Most people develop hayfever in childhood or as a teenager. But that said, it could develop at any time. Asthma sufferers may find that their symptoms worsen when suffering from hayfever and can experience shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

How to manage hayfever symptoms

Although there is no cure, hayfever doesn’t need to be miserable; there are many ways to manage and help ease symptoms of the condition. Here are some top tips:

- Regularly check the pollen forecast

- Put a barrier balm such as Vaseline around your nostrils to trap incoming pollen

- Change clothes and shower after going outside. Store your clothes outside of the bedroom, or wash immediately to avoid the pollen spreading

- Dry your washing inside so they can’t trap pollen

- Use eye drops to ease sore eyes and wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen out

- Chewing on a sugar-free mint or piece of gum helps disperse histamine in the mouth and stop a raspy throat

- Keep windows closed as much as possible

- Invest in a humidifier in the bedroom – to help keep the air moist, reduce airborne dust and pollen

- Exercise indoors to help combat the stresses of hayfever

Hayfever treatments

Whether you need a single hayfever treatment or a combination of a few, here are some of the many treatments available to help you find relief. If you need any further advice speak to a member of our pharmacy team, they’ll be happy to help.

Consider a preventative nasal spray

Preventative nasal sprays often contain an ingredient which can help reduce inflammation. Spray into the nostrils daily and it can often take at least three to four days before it has maximum effect.

Use a pollen barrier

Protect your nose from pollen with a spray that helps to put up a barrier between your nasal passages and that pesky pollen. Spray into your nose before you head outside to help prevent sneezing and sniffling.

Consider an antihistamine

Start taking an antihistamine as soon as your symptoms begin and it might be useful to keep them handy so you’re not caught out when the pollen count is high. There are several different types of antihistamine to try, so don’t be disheartened if one type doesn’t work. If you’re unsure about which one to take, speak to your Boots pharmacist for advice.

Decongestant nasal sprays

If your symptoms consist of a blocked nose, you may want to consider using a decongestant nasal spray – these are particularly good if you’re a little bunged up as they help you to breathe more easily. These shouldn’t be used for longer than 7 days as it can cause rebound congestion.

Calm your irritated eyes

Specially formulated hayfever drops can help soothe itchy, red and watery eyes. 

We hope our guide has helped you feel hayfever ready. If you need any further advice visit a Boots store and speak to one of our pharmacists.