Hay Fever

Hay Fever

 Learning how to avoid triggers and finding the right treatment can make a big difference.


What is it?

Hay fever, (also called allergic rhinitis) causes cold-like signs and symptoms such as a runny nose, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn’t caused by a virus. Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander. Hay fever is very common — it affects more than 1 in 5 people. Some people have symptoms all year-round. For others, hay fever symptoms get worse at certain times of the year, usually in the spring, summer or autumn.
Hay fever can make you feel miserable and affect your performance at work or school, and interfere with leisure activities. But you don’t have to put up with annoying symptoms. Treatments are available!

Symptoms of Hay Fever

Hay fever symptoms usually start immediately after you’re exposed to a specific allergen and can include:

Runny nose and nasal congestion
Watery or itchy eyes
Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
Sinus pressure and facial pain
Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
Decreased sense of smell or taste


During a process called sensitization, your immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless airborne substance as something harmful. Your immune system then starts producing antibodies to this harmless substance. The next time you come in contact with the substance, these antibodies recognize it and signal your immune system to release chemicals such as histamine into your bloodstream. These immune system chemicals cause a reaction that leads to the irritating signs and symptoms of hay fever.

What are you allergic to?

In Ireland, most people with hay fever are allergic to grass pollen. However, trees, mold spores and weeds can also cause hay fever. Research suggests that pollution, such as cigarette smoke or car exhaust fumes, can make allergies worse.

Pollen and spores

There are around 30 types of pollen and 20 types of spore that could cause your hay fever. The pollen that causes hay fever could come from:

Grass: The majority of people in Ireland with hay fever are allergic to grass pollen,
Trees: such as birch, oak, ash and cedar, or
Weeds: such as ragweed.

Spores that cause hay fever can come from:

Fungi, such as wild mushrooms, and
Mold, for example from compost heaps.

When is there most pollen?

Different trees and plants produce their pollen at different times of the year. Depending on which pollen you are allergic to, you may experience your hay fever symptoms at different times.

From January to April, pollen from trees are the most common cause of hay fever.
From May to August, pollen from grass are the most common cause of hay fever.
During the autumn, hay fever may be caused by weeds such as nettles and docks, late flowering plants, and mold and fungal spores.

Problems that may be associated with hay fever include:

Reduced quality of life. Hay fever can interfere with your enjoyment of activities and cause you to be less productive. For many people, hay fever symptoms lead to absences from work or school.
Poor sleep. Hay fever symptoms can keep you awake or make it hard to stay asleep.
Worsening asthma. If you have asthma, hay fever can worsen signs and symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.
Sinusitis. Prolonged sinus congestion due to hay fever may increase your susceptibility to sinusitis — an infection or inflammation of the membrane that lines the sinuses.
Ear infection. In children, hay fever often is a factor in middle ear infection

Treating Hay Fever

There are many different types of treatments…. It is best to talk to your Pharmacist or GP before beginning any treatment!

Pop into Brookes Pharmacy and talk to a Pharmacist who would be happy to help!

Preventing Hay Fever

Avoid cutting grass, playing or walking in grassy areas, and camping.
Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors.
Change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body.
Try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50).
Keep windows and doors shut in the house. If it gets too warm, draw the curtains to keep out the sun and keep the temperature down.
Do not keep fresh flowers in the house.
Vacuum regularly
Damp dust regularly. Dusting with a wet cloth, rather than a dry one, will collect the dust and stop any pollen from being spread around.
Keep pets out of the house during the hay fever season. If your pet does come indoors, wash it regularly to remove any pollen from its fur.
Do not smoke or let other people smoke in your house. Smoking and breathing in other people’s smoke will irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, and can make your symptoms worse.
Keep car windows closed. You can buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. This will need to be changed every time the car is serviced.



If you suspect that you have hay fever, you may want to discuss it with your pharmacist or your GP to confirm the diagnosis. This will help you decide whether you need treatment and rule out anything else that could be causing your symptoms, such as an infection.