General health

Hay fever season | symptoms and treatment

With hay fever season, allergies will once again be on the horizon for many of us. The seasonal rise in the pollen count triggers an allergic reaction in those who suffer from hay fever. Some symptoms of hay fever are similar to those of COVID-19, including coughing, fatigue, and occasionally headaches. 

It is important to understand the difference between the symptoms to ensure there isn’t increased anxiety when hay fever symptoms flare up. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature, a loss or change to your sense of taste or smell, and a new continuous cough – if you experience these, stay at home and ring 111 to book a test or use a lateral flow test if you have them to hand. With hay fever, symptoms tend to be milder and there is no raised temperature. There is also less chance of sensory changes or feeling generally unwell and hay fever usually causes sneezing and itchy eyes, which are not COVID-19 symptoms.

There is no permanent cure for hay fever, but the symptoms can often be prevented and managed using non-prescription antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medicines, in the form of tablets, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops, and in some cases your GP may need to prescribe stronger medicines such as inhalers.

Can you develop hay fever if you've never had it before?

Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions. It's estimated that there are more than 10 million people with hay fever 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.

You're more likely to develop hay fever if you have a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema.

What are the other symptoms of hay fever and are there any that people might not realise are symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever symptoms can also include loss of smell, pain around your temples and forehead, earache and feeling tired. These may not initially be seen as hay fever symptoms but unlike a cold that usually lasts one to two weeks, they will last for weeks or months due to the presence of pollen. A covid test and isolation should still be followed even if hay fever is suspected but symptoms of coronavirus are present.

Can hay fever make you cough? 

Symptoms of hay fever can include coughing. If you have asthma, you might also have a tight feeling in your chest, be short of breath and suffer with a wheeze 

What are the different treatments available for hay fever, are some more effective than others and do some work better depending on the different pollen, tree pollen etc?

The main treatments include antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays which can help with itchy and watery eyes, sneezing and a blocked nose. Treatments are selected to best relieve the specific symptoms, rather than the pollen causing the allergic reaction. 

What are hay fever injections, are they safe, how do they work and who can get them?

Kenalog (a steroid injection) is only safe and recommended for use in a small group of people, as intramuscular steroids can exacerbate existing medical conditions. The mainstay of treatment for hay fever is oral antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops.

You can find a range of over the counter hayfever treatment available from our sister service, Chemist Direct. 

For more advice on managing your health click here.

Phil Day By Phil Day Superintendent Pharmacist Published 13/06/2022