Understanding Allergies: Hay Fever Relief and Treatment
What causes allergic reactions?
Allergies such as hay fever occur when the body’s immune system reacts to a particular substance as though it’s harmful. Allergic reactions usually happen within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen.1
Allergies are very common and the number of people living with allergies is increasing every year. In the UK 1 in 4 people are affected by an allergy at some point in their life.1
Allergies are particularly common in children, some disappear as the child gets older, although many are lifelong. Adults can develop allergies to substances they were not previously allergic to.1
Most people affected have a family history of allergies or have closely related conditions such as asthma or eczema.1
Allergies can be an annoyance and have a dramatic impact on your daily activities, fortunately there is relief in the form of hay fever tablets, nasal sprays, and injections.1
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Hay fever symptoms include:2
- Sneezing and coughing
- A runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears
- Loss of smell
- Pain around your temples or forehead
- Feeling tired
If you’re still unsure, take a look at our table of symptoms for further guidance.
How to stop hay fever?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely stop hay fever, however there are a variety of treatments you can explore to relieve symptoms.
You can try hay fever tablets also known as antihistamines. They block the effects of histamine in your body. Histamine is normally released when your body detects something harmful such as an infection. However, in people with allergies, the body mistakes something harmless such as pollen for a threat and produces histamine. It’s the histamine that causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Antihistamines help prevent this process, if you take them before coming into contact with allergens, or they can reduce the severity of your symptoms if taken afterwards. Children’s hay fever tablets are also available.3
Steroid Nasal Sprays
You can also try steroid nasal sprays, which are anti-inflammatory medicines that you spray into your nose and can be used to treat hay fever symptoms. Steroids are a man-made version of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands. When sprayed into the nose, steroids reduce inflammation, which can help relieve hay fever symptoms.4
If other hay fever treatments don’t work, your GP might refer you for immunotherapy. This involves receiving small amounts of pollen as a hay fever injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity. It usually starts in the winter about three months before the hay fever season begins.2
It’s important to know that immunotherapy is a specialist treatment and therefore may not be available everywhere.2
How to prevent hay fever
There are a variety of things you can do to prevent and manage hay fever symptoms by avoiding allergic triggers, these include:5
- Monitor pollen forecasts daily and stay indoors wherever possible when the count is high (usually on warm, dry days). Rain washes pollen from the air so counts should be lower on cool, wet days
- On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair and change your clothing after arriving home
- Avoid drying clothing outside when pollen counts are high
- Apply an effective allergen barrier balm around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens and other allergens and help prevent a reaction
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
- Allergies. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/ Accessed 27/01/2022.
- Hay Fever. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hay-fever/ Accessed 27/01/2022.
- Antihistamines. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antihistamines/ Accessed 27/01/2022.
- Steroid Nasal Sprays. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/steroid-nasal-sprays/ Accessed 27/01/2022.
- Hay Fever and Allergic Rhinitis. Allergy UK. https://www.allergyuk.org/types-of-allergies/hayfever/ Accessed 27/01/2022.