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Hay fever is a common allergic condition. It is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. When these tiny particles come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they can irritate them and trigger an allergic reaction.
During an allergic reaction the body releases a number of chemicals. These chemicals then cause the symptoms of hay fever, such as watering eyes and a runny nose.
Hay fever is also called seasonal allergic rhinitis because symptoms tend to occur at the same time, or in the same season, each year.
You can have an allergy to:
• Tree pollen - late March to mid May
• Grass pollen - mid May to July
• Weed pollen - end of June to September
• Frequent sneezing
• Runny or blocked nose
• Itchy, red or watery eyes (also known as allergic conjunctivitis)
• An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.
Less commonly, you may experience:
• Loss of your sense of smell
• Facial pain
Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and your symptoms may be worse some years than others, depending on the weather conditions and the pollen count. Hay fever symptoms are likely to be worse if the pollen count is high. The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months. Your symptoms may start at different times of the year, depending on which types of pollen you are allergic to.
While symptoms of hay fever may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work.
Most cases of hay fever can be treated using medication from a pharmacy or supermarket. By going to the pharmacy you’ll be saving yourself time, freeing up GP appointments for people with more urgent needs as well as doing your bit to help the NHS save money on unnecessary prescription costs. Your local pharmacist can offer you help and advice on which medication is right for you. If your symptoms are more troublesome it may be worth speaking to your GP practice as you may require prescription medication.
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Download our useful guide, which has information about how to treat your hay fever and the best medicines to use:
Hay fever poster
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