What is hayfever?

What is hayfever?

Find out more about the causes and treatments for hayfever.

For some people, runny noses and other winter-illness symptoms don’t disappear with the warm weather – they get worse. If you’re sniffling, coughing, have a sore throat or sore eyes in June or July, it might well not be a virus… It could be hayfever.

Even if you’ve never had it before, it can develop in adulthood and seems to be on the rise. In fact, it’s estimated that hayfever affects at least 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children1 making it one of the most common allergies.

So it’s definitely worth knowing something about it – whether you’re a sufferer or you know someone who is.

What is hayfever?

Hayfever is an allergy, and affects people who are allergic to pollen. The official medical term is allergic rhinitis2. Which basically means an allergy that effects your nose.

What is pollen?

 Pollen is a fine powdery substance produced by lots of different types of plants as part of their reproductive cycle.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is when your body reacts to something that's usually harmless. Your body’s immune system tries to protect you by releasing histamine, which causes blood vessels to expand and the skin to swell. This inflammatory response can also cause typical allergic symptoms – like sneezing, itching, and a blocked or runny nose.

Who gets hayfever?

It normally develops in childhood, but can come on at any age, and is more common in those who have asthma, existing allergies, or family members who suffer from hayfever.

When is hayfever at its worst?

Different people can be sensitive to different kinds of pollen. According to the Met Office3, around 25% of people are affected by tree pollen, which typically occurs first from late March to mid-May. Most people, though, are allergic to grass pollen which has two peaks and can last from mid-May until July. Weed pollen can be released at any time but the season typically covers the end of June to September.

It's also important to remember other factors that can impact the pollen count – like rain, wind, and temperature.

What are they symptoms of hayfever?

According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever4 might 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 the sides of your head and your forehead or in your sinuses
  • headaches
  • general fatigue.

How is hayfever diagnosed?

Generally there isn’t a test for hayfever. It tends to be diagnosed through symptoms.

What is the treatment for hayfever?

There's currently no cure for hay fever and you cannot prevent it. But you can do things to manage your symptoms when the pollen count is high.

Lifestyle changes

  • put petroleum jelly around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • wear large sunglasses or a mask to block pollen getting into your nose and eyes
  • shower and change your clothes after you have been outside
  • wipe down pets with a wet cloth after being outside
  • keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • use a pollen filters in your car air vent
  • stay inside as much as possible
  • avoid mowing lawns, gardening or walking on freshly cut grass
  • don’t bring flowers inside
  • dry clothes inside rather than outside on a line
  • keep an eye on the weather forecast to see if the pollen count is likely to be high or low.


Your pharmacist or GP can recommend some medicines to help control your hayfever symptoms, too.

  • Preventative medicines like antihistamines can be used before symptoms start to block the action of histamines. Typically in drops, nose sprays or tablets, it’s important to get the right dose for your age and weight - and to know whether you’re taking a medicine that might make you drowsy.
  • Once symptoms are present, you may be recommended to take a corticosteroid nasal spray to help combat congestion, swollen sinuses and sneezing.
  • Sometimes an inhaler might be recommended to help keep airways open if hayfever is affecting your chest.
  • For really severe cases where steroids and other hayfever treatments haven’t had an impact your GP may refer you for immunotherapy. This means you'll be given small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity to pollen.

How can Equipsme help?

Hayfever can make you feel pretty miserable, and if you’re suffering it’s really crucial to get the right advice, fast. Our 24/7 GP service is there so you can talk to a GP within days or hours, at a time to suit you. It’s especially useful if you’re GP is really busy or you can’t get a non-emergency appointment.

All our plans also come with access to AXA Health’s 24/7 nurse advice line, too – and they’re on hand to help you with advice on how to take your medication, what else you can try if it’s not working, and how to get your kids through things like exam season while managing their symptoms.

Find out more about how to use the GP service
Find out more about the nurse advice line


References and resources:



1. www.metoffice.gov.uk
2. www.nhs.uk
3. www.metoffice.gov.uk
4. www.nhs.uk

All our information is desk-based research from credible sources only, including the NHS and medical/disease charities.

Date created: June 2024