HAY FEVER Advice and Guidance

Hayfever | Coda Pharmacy

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 is a very common allergy, experienced by about 20% of people in the UK at some point in their lives. While there is no cure, symptoms can often be alleviated by taking over-the-counter hay fever tablets, nasal sprays, or prescription-only tablets.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen, which is released by plants such as flowers, trees and grass. People can be allergic to different types of pollen, and symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Different types of pollen are released at different times of the year, and the highest pollen count usually occurs around the end of June and throughout July.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Common symptoms of hay fever include:

  •  a runny or blocked nose
  •  itchy, watery and red eyes
  •  sneezing
  •  worsening of asthma symptoms (wheezing and breathlessness)
  •  an itchy throat

The severity of your hay fever symptoms may vary from year to year, depending on the weather conditions and the pollen count (the number of grains of pollen in one cubic metre of air). Click here to see the Met Office’s current pollen count throughout the UK.

Over-the-counter hay fever tablets

Many antihistamine tablets are available over the counter for the treatment of hay fever, including cetirizine, fexofenadine and loratadine. You may be more familiar with the brand names that these medicines are sold under, such as Clarityn, Zirtek, Benadryl and Piriton.

These antihistamine tablets work by altering the way the body reacts to histamine, a chemical released by the body when it thinks it is being attacked by a harmful substance. It is histamine which causes the symptoms of hay fever, such as a runny nose and watery eyes.

Normally, histamine is useful, and helps protect the body against infection. However, when the body mistakes a harmless substance, such as pollen, for a threat, it will produce histamine unnecessarily, and the histamine will in turn cause the unpleasant symptoms. By altering the way histamine affects the cells of your body, antihistamines can prevent the symptoms.

Over-the-counter hay fever tablets can be used as an ‘as-required’ treatment, taken when you start to develop the symptoms of hay fever. They can also be used as a preventative measure, such as on days when you know there is a high pollen count and you are likely to experience symptoms.