Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, usually when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Pollen is a fine powder from plants.
Hay fever is usually worse between late March and September, especially when it's warm, humid and windy. This is when the pollen count is at its highest.
Hay fever symptoms
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- 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 and forehead
- feeling tired
Asthma and hay fever
If you have asthma, you might also:
- have a tight feeling in your chest
- be short of breath
- wheeze and cough
Hay fever may last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.
Hay fever treatment
There's currently no cure for hay fever and you can't prevent it. But you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high.
To ease your hay fever symptoms:
put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
shower and change your clothes after you've been outside to wash the pollen off
stay indoors whenever possible
keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
dust with a damp cloth
buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car
buy a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter (these can trap pollutants)
do not cut grass or walk on grass
do not spend too much time outside
do not keep fresh flowers in the house
do not smoke or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
do not dry clothes outside – they can catch pollen
do not let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors
When to see a pharmacist
Speak to your pharmacist if you have hay fever. They can give advice and suggest the best treatments. These include antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.
These treatments can help with:
- itchy and watery eyes and sneezing
- a blocked nose
When to see a GP
If you are not seeing any improvement from the pharmacist's treatment, your GP may be able to help.
Visit your GP if:
- your symptoms are getting worse
- your symptoms don't improve after taking medicines from the pharmacy
Treatments from your GP
Your GP may prescribe steroids. If steroids and other hay fever treatments don't work, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy.
This means you'll be given small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet. This will slowly build up your immunity to pollen.
This kind of treatment usually starts in the winter about 3 months before the hay fever season begins.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE