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Home / Hay Fever

Hay Fever

Hay fever causes, prevention techniques and effective medication

Approximately 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from hay fever at some point in their life; that's nearly 13 million Brits. Whilst there is no hay fever cure, the most effective way to control your symptoms is to avoid exposure to pollen, but this is not always possible, especially throughout the summer months. Nasal spray Avamys is available at HealthExpress. Our service is quick and convenient so you can receive your hay fever treatment within just 24 hours of ordering. All you need to do is fill in our online consultation.

Dr. Sarah Donald
Dr. Sarah Donald Clinical Lead

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What is hay fever?

Hay fever - or seasonal allergic rhinitis as it is medically known - is caused by an allergy to pollen and is a common condition in the UK, affecting over 10 million people. The symptoms of hay fever are usually first experienced in childhood, but can develop at any age.

When a person with hay fever comes into contact with pollen, the body releases antibodies to fight off the particular allergen. These antibodies stimulate the body to produce the chemical histamine, which causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction with uncomfortable symptoms including wheezing and watery eyes. It can also make other conditions worse, asthma for example.

What causes hay fever?

In general, hay fever is caused by pollen particles that irritate your nasal passages and trigger an allergic reaction. There are many types of pollen that could trigger this reaction. In Britain, grass pollen is the most common cause of hay fever but symptoms can also be triggered by tree and weed pollen.


90% of hay fever sufferers in the UK are allergic to grass pollens, which is prominent around mid May to July time.

Approximately 25% of people in Britain with hay fever are allergic to tree pollen, such as oak, birch, ash and cedar trees. Tree pollen allergy is most prevalent between late March and mid-May.

These pollens are produced from weeds such as dock, mugwort and nettles. Weed pollen count is high from the end of June to September (i.e. the summer season).

Risk factors

Although there is no clear known reason why the immune system reacts in this way, there are certain risk factors that may increase the risk of suffering from hay fever. These include:

  • health causes
  • Pollen

  • health causes
  • Family history of have fever

  • health causes
  • Exposure to tobacco/toxic fumes during childhood

  • health causes
  • Already have a condition such as asthma

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever symptoms largely depend on the weather conditions and the level of pollen in the air. Symptoms are usually worse on days where the pollen count is particularly high. Common hay fever symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy eyes, ears, throat, and lips
  • A cough (caused by postnasal drip)
  • Tiredness / fatigue
  • Wheezing sensation in the throat
  • Sore throat
  • A headache
  • A rash - i.e. itchy red patches on the skin. This isn't common though.

You can measure pollen count by using air samples. Pollen counts are also usually shown on the daily weather forecasts. Pollen levels are gauged by using the following measurements:

  • Low: Less than 30 grains of pollen every cubic metre of air
  • Moderate: 30 - 49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
  • High: 50 - 149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
  • Very High: 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
  • symptoms Sneezing
  • symptoms Runny or blocked nose
  • symptoms Tiredness / fatigue
  • symptoms Sore throat
  • symptoms Headache
  • symptoms Itchy eyes, ears, throat, and lips

What are the benefits of treating hay fever?

There are a number of benefits that can be experienced when you successfully treat hay fever. These can include:

  • You can catch up on lost sleep as a result of hay fever symptoms
  • Symptoms can improve if you treat hay fever over the long-term
  • You may become less vulnerable to other allergic respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma)
  • Inflammation in your nose is significantly reduced
  • Nasal sprays (such as Avamys) can be used during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding
  • Improved symptoms

    if you treat hay fever over the long-term

  • Reduced vulnerability

    there is a lesser chancer of being prone to other allergic respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma, COPD)

  • Reduced inflammation

    nasal airways become opened allowing for easier respiration

  • Treatment flexibility

    nasal sprays such as Avamys can be used even during pregnancy

How do you treat hay fever?

The most effective way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid contact with the allergen. However, this is not always possible, especially when you are experiencing hay fever. You can treat these symptoms with a range of different over the counter treatments as well as prescription medication.


Antihistamines inhibit the function of a chemical called histamine, which has been shown to cause many of the symptoms associated with allergies like hay fever. These are available as tablets and in cream form, as well as eye drops or nasal sprays.

Nasal sprays

Steroid sprays, such as Avamys, are specifically designed to significantly reduce swelling in the nasal airways. These sprays are often prescribed when over the counter treatments have been proven ineffective. They are also useful if you want to minimise side effects. Nasal sprays are also very easy to use.


Decongestants are used to relieve a blocked nose, which is commonly caused by hay fever or dust allergies. Decongestants are often used as a short-term treatment and can be taken as capsules, nasal sprays or liquids.


Injections (also referred to as a jab) used in the treatment of hay fever are available on the NHS. These injections contain a steroid and should therefore only be used in severe cases. Injections can also carry the risk of steroid-related side effects when used too regularly. An injection isn't considered by most doctors to be an ordinary treatment for hay fever.

What are some techniques for preventing hay fever?

It's almost impossible to completely avoid pollen, but there are certain techniques that can limit your exposure to allergens and therefore reduce your chances of experiencing symptoms.

If you are indoors, try to follow the steps below:

  • Shut windows and doors to stop pollen from entering
  • Dust furniture with a damp cloth
  • If your pet has been outside, try to remove any pollen from their fur
  • Vacuum your house frequently
  • Remove any fresh flowers in your house

If you are outside, the tips below may help you prevent hay fever symptoms:

  • Avoid grassy areas particularly at times where the pollen count is high, like early mornings or late evenings
  • Wear specialised sunglasses that restrict the amount of pollen getting to your eyes
  • Make sure your car windows are shut and consider purchasing a pollen filter which stops pollen entering the car through air vents

What hay fever treatments are available?

Many treatments for hay fever, such as antihistamines, can be obtained over-the-counter and it is advised that you try these first to see if they provide relief from your symptoms. If they have failed to improve your hay fever, then you may consider prescription medication, such as nasal sprays, which are available to buy at HealthExpress. To start your order, simply click below and you will be directed to our partner medical consultation. At this stage, you will be asked a few simple questions about your allergy and your medical history, so that our doctors can safely prescribe treatment for you.

Where can I buy hay fever treatment?

Many treatments for hay fever, such as antihistamines, can be obtained over the counter and it is advised that you try these first to see if they provide relief from your symptoms. If they have failed to improve your problem then you may consider prescription medication such as nasal sprays, which are available to buy at HealthExpress. To start your order, complete a free medical consultation.

Fill out a short medical form
Doctor issues prescription
Medication sent from pharmacy