We help you work out which hay fever relief product is right for you

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, with signs including a blocked, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.

Although there's currently no cure for hay fever, you can make certain tweaks to your lifestyle to help ease hay fever symptoms. 

There are also several treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms throughout hay fever season.

Hay fever can be controlled by products used to relieve allergy symptoms, which you can buy from a pharmacy. For more severe symptoms, you may need prescription medication from your GP.

When should I start treatment for hay fever symptoms?

Most hay fever medication works best when you take it before the pollen is in the air and your symptoms develop.

When you come into contact with something that you’re allergic to, your body releases something called histamine. This is what creates the symptoms like itching and sneezing.

Taking medication (antihistamine) before you come into contact with pollen (or whatever you’re allergic to) can help prevent the release of histamine and help keep allergy symptoms in check.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist for more information about the best time to start taking action to help ease your hay fever symptoms.

What are the different hay fever treatments available?

Hay fever medicine

Probably the best-known type of allergy medication, antihistamines help prevent the effects of histamine. This is a chemical released by the body when it thinks it's being attacked by a harmful substance.

Normally, histamine helps protect the body when it detects something harmful, such as an infection. However, in people with hay fever, something harmless like pollen is perceived as a threat. Histamine is then released to protect from the invasion, which triggers a whole range of unpleasant symptoms including an itchy rash, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, and itchy, red watery eyes.

By blocking the action of histamine, antihistamines can help reduce these symptoms.

Antihistamine tablets and liquids are available over the counter from a pharmacy without the need for a prescription. Antihistamine nasal sprays are only available on prescription. Antihistamines can be used on their own for mild cases of hay fever, or with other products. Your GP or pharmacist can advise you on what treatments are most suitable for you.

They can be divided into two groups:

• Antihistamines that may cause drowsiness (such as chlorphenamine and promethazine)

• Antihistamines that are less likely to cause drowsiness, although this can occasionally happen to some people (including cetirizine, acrivastine and loratadine)

Non-drowsy antihistamines are generally thought to be the best option as they're less likely to make you feel sleepy. However, types that do make you feel drowsy may be better for you if your symptoms are keeping you awake at night.

Always ask your GP or pharmacist for advice if:

• You’re pregnant or breastfeeding

• You’re looking for hay fever medication for a child

• You’re taking other medicines

• You have an underlying condition, such as a heart, liver or kidney problem or epilepsy

If your symptoms don't improve after using over-the-counter antihistamines, see your GP as you may need a prescription medication.

Boots Hayfever & Allergy Relief 10mg Tablets (3 Months Supply Bundle)

Save with a bundle

These one-a-day tablets help treat the symptoms of hay fever and allergies. The three-month supply means you should have enough to see you through most of the hay fever season.

Contains the active ingredient Cetirizine. Always read the label.

Allacan Hay Fever and Allergy Relief Tablets

Action on allergies

These tablets help ease the symptoms of hay fever, dust allergies, pet allergies and skin allergies.

Contains the active ingredient Cetirizine Hydrochloride. Always read the label.

Piriton Allergy Tablets

Rapid relief

Suitable for adults and children over the age of six, these fast-acting tablets provide relief from hay fever as well as other allergies and insect bites.

Contains the active ingredient Chlorphenamine Maleate. Always read the label.

Bell's Healthcare Hayfever & Allergy Relief 10mg Tablets

Effective relief

These antihistamine tablets help provide relief from hay fever as well as pet allergies, dust allergies and skin allergies.

Contains the active ingredient Loratadine. Always read the label.

Decongestant nasal sprays

A common symptom of hay fever is a blocked nose. A nasal decongestant spray can help ease this.

The decongestant works by narrowing the blood vessels in your nose, which reduces the amount of fluid that leaks out into the lining. This helps open up your nasal passage, making it easier to breathe.

Most decongestant nasal sprays can be bought over the counter from pharmacies without a prescription. However, they shouldn't be used for longer than seven days as they can make your nasal congestion worse.

Otrivine Adult Metered Dose 0.1% Nasal Spray

Works in minutes

This decongestant works in minutes and lasts up to 10 hours, to help provide relief from nasal congestion due to hay fever and other allergies as well as colds and sinusitis.

Contains the active ingredient Xylometazoline Hydrochloride. Always read the label.

Saline nasal sprays

Saline nasal sprays use a salt water solution to help clean and clear nasal passages. They can help remove pollen and other irritants.

Boots Saline Nasal Spray

Clear & cleanse

Suitable for adults and infants, this gentle nasal spray helps provide relief from congestion caused by hay fever. Top tip: It can also help relieve congestion caused by colds and sinusitis.

Steroid nasal sprays

Steroid nasal sprays, also known as corticosteroid nasal sprays, can help relieve hay fever symptoms, such as sneezing, runny, itchy or a blocked nose.

When pollen triggers an allergic reaction, the inside of the nose becomes inflamed and irritated. When used daily, the steroid helps reduce inflammation and prevent other symptoms from developing. It might take a few days to take effect.

Some steroid nasal sprays are available over the counter from your pharmacist, whereas others are only available on prescription.

If your symptoms don't improve after using over-the-counter products, visit your GP for advice.

Beconase Hayfever Relief for Adults 0.05% Nasal Spray

Long-lasting action

This hard-working spray helps provide effective relief from hay fever symptoms such as nasal congestion, sinus discomfort, watery eyes, runny nose, itchy eyes and nose, and sneezing.

Contains the active ingredient Beclometasone Dipropionate. Always read the label.

Boots Hayfever Relief For Adults 50 Micrograms/Dose Nasal Spray

Day & night relief

This spray can help provide non-drowsy relief from sneezing as well as an itchy and runny nose. Just apply two sprays in each nostril twice a day. The maximum daily dose is a total of eight sprays.

Contains the active ingredient Beclometasone Dipropionate. Always read the label.

Eye drops

Eye drops can be used to help treat hay fever symptoms that affect the eyes, such as redness, itchiness and watering.

Eye drops to help ease hay fever symptoms are also available both over the counter from a pharmacist or on prescription from your GP. Always follow the patient information leaflet for the correct way to use and store your eye drops.

Boots Hayfever Relief 2% W/V Eye Drops

Soothing relief

These gentle eye drops help relieve eye hay fever symptoms such as itching, redness, soreness and watering. Simply squeeze one or two drops into each eye, up to four times a day.

Contains the active ingredient Sodium Cromoglicate (2.0% w/v). Always read the label.

Optrex Soothing Eye Drops For Itchy Eyes

Ease irritation

Got irritated eyes caused by pollen, pet hair or dust mites? These specially-formulated eye drops contain natural plant extracts to help relieve and refresh your peepers.

Opticrom Hayfever 2% W/V Eye Drops

Soothe eye symptoms

Just one or two drops up to four times a day could help relieve eye hay fever symptoms such as itching, redness, soreness and watering.

Contains the active ingredient Sodium Cromoglicate (2% w/v). Always read the label.

Steroid tablets

If your hay fever symptoms are really bad, you may occasionally need short-term relief. If this is the case, your GP may prescribe a short course of steroid tablets lasting between five to 10 days.


If you have ongoing hay fever symptoms that aren't relieved by any of the usual treatments, your GP may refer you to an allergy specialist for further investigation and treatment.

One method that's suitable for some people is immunotherapy treatment. This involves gradually introducing you to small amounts of your particular allergen and monitoring your reaction in a controlled environment.

The aim of this is to desensitise the immune system so that it doesn't produce such a severe reaction.

The allergen is either injected directly into the skin or is taken as a tablet that dissolves under the tongue.

As your body gets used to the allergen, the amount used is gradually increased. This allows your body to slowly get used to the allergic substance, so you become less sensitive to it.

Achieving long-term pollen desensitisation can take three years of treatment.

Next steps

• If you're struggling with your hay fever symptoms, ask your pharmacist for advice on different treatment options that may be suitable for you, or use the Boots Hayfever Treatment Online Clinic*

• If your symptoms don’t get any better or get worse, visit your GP

• Remember that avoiding the allergen, where possible, will help to reduce your symptoms


What's the difference between hay fever & a cold?

Expert advice to help you understand your sniffles

How do I treat hay fever?

Itchy eyes, sneezing & a runny nose? Find out which medicines can help relieve your hay fever symptoms

*Subject to avaliablility and clinician approval. Charges apply.