Hay fever

Hay fever

If you often suffer from a congested nose, sneezing and have itchy and irritated eyes during the spring and summer seasons there is a chance that you might have hay fever. The first symptoms often occur in childhood or adolescence, but for many, the problems ease with age. The most common allergy provoking pollen comes from birch or grass, but many other kinds of trees and plants can also cause problems.

Scientists are not sure of what causes hay fever, but the risk of infliction increases if both parents are allergic. If you suspect that you might have hay fever it is important to contact a doctor in order for your problems to be properly examined. Hay fever cannot be fully prevented, but there are things that you can do to feel better, and with the right treatment the quality of your life won't suffer during the hay fever season.

Hay fever symptoms

Hay fever appears when the immune system overreacts to pollen circulating in air, and produces allergy antibodies that place themselves on mast cells of the mucous membranes of the nose, respiratory tract and eyes. The mast cells contain histamine and other irritating substances released as pollen seeds enter the body, which leads to allergic symptoms. Hay fever is sometimes mistaken for a prolonged cold because of the symptoms being similar, though they do differ in important ways.


Hay fever


Nose and throat

Itchy, runny and congested nose, sneezing attacks with many sneezes in a row, Itchy throat

Runny and congested nose. Nasal catarrh, with thick mucus after some time. Sporadic sneezing. Sore throat


Swollen, itchy, red, irritated


Body temperature

Usually no fever

A light fever may occur


May last for weeks, reappears every year

Often passes on its own within a week or so

Allergies may also cause headaches and abnormal tiredness when there is pollen in the air. Some even cough and experience irritation of the airways, which might imply asthma. In such cases it is of extra importance that you seek help from a doctor in order to control the symptoms, since untreated asthma may lead to long lasting problems of the respiratory tract. One third of all people allergic to pollen develop asthma during the pollen season. The asthma problems are often worse on days when there is a lot of pollen around.

When suffering from hay fever it is common to develop hypersensitivity to certain foods, like apples, stone fruits, strawberries, celery and nuts. This is called oral allergy syndrome. Common symptoms of oral allergy syndrome are swelling lips and an itchy throat. Far from all people that have hay fever develop these cross-reactions, but it may still be good to be aware of their existence.

How long does the hay fever season last?

The duration of the hay fever season varies from year to year. It may start as early as the end of February and last until the beginning of September. The season is usually divided into different periods of problems, since different types of pollen bloom on different times. If you are allergic in early spring it might, for example, be hazel pollen or alder tree pollen that is causing it, since these trees blooms earlier. During late spring it is common to be bothered by birch pollen, elm-tree pollen and oak-tree pollen. Around midsummer it is usually grass that is causing most problems and at the end of summer it is mugwort pollen.  Elm-tree, ambrosia, beech, plantain, sallow and willow are other examples of trees and plants giving off allergy provoking pollen. Spores from fern, mushrooms and moss are also capable of provoking allergies or asthma.

Living with hay fever

Mild symptoms of hay fever are often eased by over-the-counter medicines, like allergy tablets and nasal spray containing corticosteroid. For those with more serious problems this treatment will not be helpful enough, and it is important to contact a doctor. The doctor will then be able to do a full allergy testing and prescribe medicines that will ease the symptoms more effectively. If you suffer from very severe symptoms in spite of treatment it is also possible to be offered immunotherapy (allergy vaccine therapy).

In addition, there are some things that you can do yourself in order to alleviate your symptoms and live a healthier life during the hay fever season, despite your allergy:

  • Be prepared and remember to take your medicines
  • Follow the pollen prognosis and adjust your activities and medication thereafter
  • Let air into the house in the morning, at night and after a rain when the levels of pollen in the air are at their lowest
  • Make sure to keep your bedroom clean. Keep the door closed so that pollen flying around in the rest of the house does not enter the bedroom. If possible, get an air purifier
  • Change your sheets often, and wash your hair before going to bed. In that way you will not bring pollen to your bed
  • Close ventilation doors and avoid drying laundry outdoors during spring and summer
  • Avoid contact with pets since they often carry pollen on their furs
  • Cut your lawn before the grass blooms and do not play on recently cut grass.
  • Cleanse your nose with water or a saline solution in order to get rid of pollen in your nasal tract
  • Exercise indoors when there is a lot of pollen in the outdoor air

    If your treatment is not helping you - contact a doctor to discuss if you may try something else, or should adjust the dosage.



 UK/GEN/15/0057b                 Date of preparation: December 2015 

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