Hay fever

Hay fever is the term used when a person has an allergic reaction to pollen. It is one of the most common allergic conditions and often causes eyes to be red, itchy and swollen. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with the allergy in England. The most common symptoms of hay fever are itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, runny or blocked nose and difficulty breathing. If you have hayfever:

  • Avoid your exposure to pollen, by closing windows and keeping surfaces clear with a damp duster, especially at the start and end of the day when pollen levels are highest.
     
  • Wear sunglasses when outside, which can help to protect your eyes from dust and pollen.
     
  • Visit your optometrist or pharmacist for advice and to get medicated eye drops to help alleviate itching and swelling.
     
  • If you wear contact lenses, remember to check if you can use the drops when you are wearing your lenses. When the pollen count is very high, it can be more comfortable to wear spectacles rather than contact lenses. You may also feel more comfortable by avoiding wearing contact lenses when you are gardening, particularly when mowing the lawn, as grass particles and pollen can become stuck behind the lens and cause discomfort.
     
  • If your eyes become dry, seek professional advice from your optometrist, pharmacist or GP. They may prescribe lubricating eye drops to ease the dryness.

Common symptoms

  • A runny nose or a blocked nose
  • An itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy and watery red eyes
  • An itchy throat

Less common symptoms

  • Loss of smell
  • Face pain
  • Sweats
  • Headache

Asthma symptoms - such as wheeze and breathlessness, which may get worse if you already have asthma. Some people have asthma symptoms only during the hay fever season. If you have hay fever, you are more likely to develop asthma.

Find out more about hay fever here.