Learn About Ailments | Hay Fever

Hay Fever

Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by the pollen of seasonal plants or other substances present in the air. The symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and itchy eyes. Hay fever usually occurs from early spring through to the summer but can affect people all year round.
Hay Fever

In This Article
Watch the hay fever video Causes of hay fever
Symptoms of hay fever Diagnosis of hay fever
Related terms Common misspellings


Did you know?
  • About 20% of the UK population suffer with hay fever
  • Hay fever season in England begins two weeks earlier than Scotland
  • 6 million hay fever sufferers take prescription medicine for their condition
  • Hay fever season has increased by 11 days in the last 15 years
  • The UK has among the highest number of hay fever sufferers in Europe
  • Hay fever is one of the common chronic diseases of childhood

Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is usually a harmless substance, but when someone with an allergy comes into contact with pollen their immune system believes it is under attack and produces an antibody to help defend against it. The antibody, called immunoglobulin E, triggers further chemical releases (including histamine) and the effect of this gives symptoms similar to a cold.

The majority of hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollens that are released in the summer months. However, hay fever season begins in March when the main problem for hay fever sufferers comes from tree pollen. Trees such as the silver birch and oak release their pollen up until May during the warm, dry and windy days. Grass pollens are then present from May to August.

Weed and fungal spore pollen affects hay fever sufferers from August to November and then the winter offers a few months respite before the process starts all over again. Environmental pollution from cars and smoke can also make hay fever worse. People with a family history (genetic predisposition) of other allergic diseases such as eczema and asthma are also likely to suffer with hay fever.

The symptoms of hay fever are worse when the pollen count is high. The weather affects how much pollen is released by plants but typically a pollen count of 50 or above is when symptoms of hay fever appear. Plants release their pollen early in the morning, more so on sunny days as more flowers open. Pollen spreads easily on windy humid days and clears when it rains causing the pollen count to fall.

When the pollen count is high, common hay fever symptoms include constant sneezing, runny or blocked nose (nasal congestion), itchy/watery eyes and itchy ears, nose and throat. Other common symptoms of hay fever include loss of smell or taste, headaches or sinus pain and sweats.

A GP can make a diagnosis from symptoms and time of year they are present. Hay fever that lasts all year round (known as perennial allergic rhinitis) may be caused by other substances such as house dust mites, animal fur or foods. Skin and blood tests may be used to determine the exact cause of the allergic reaction. With a skin test, the skin is pricked with the substance that is believed to be the cause of the allergy.

  • Irritation
  • Sensitive
  • Redness
  • Allergies
  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Allergens
  • Sinusitis
  • Rhinitis
  • Pollen
  • Pollinate
  • Airborne
  • Protein
  • Antihistamines
  • Perennial allergic rhinitis'

Hayfever, Hay Fevr, Hey Fever, Hay Feaver, Hayfeaver

Therapies to consider
Acupuncture Allergy Intolerance Testing Aromatherapy
Chinese Herbal Medicine Ear Candling Herbal Medicine
Kinesiology Naturopathy Nutrition


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