What is hayfever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Pollen is a fine powder from plants.

Hayfever is a condition that can be usually be managed without having to contact the practice. The NHS has classified hayfever as a “self care” problem. This means that where possible it should be treated using over the counter preparations. I will guide you through the symptoms and offer treatments.

Symptoms may 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 your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired


If you have asthma, you might also:

  • have a tight feeling in your chest
  • be short of breath
  • wheeze and cough

Hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.



Our practice pharmacist gives you a breakdown of over the counter treatments available to purchase from your pharmacy:

There are 4 antihistamines available to purchase from your community pharmacy. Each of these works completely different, so if you have tried one, try the next and so forth. You are likely to find that one works for you and another works for someone else. 

The four antihistamines available from your pharmacy are: 

  • Loratadine – label says causes drowsiness, but most people find this less drowsy, once daily administration, cheap as comes as own brand
  • Cetirizine – label says causes drowsiness, but most people find less drowsy, once daily administration, cheap as comes as own brand
  • Acrivastine – non-drowsy, can be taken up to 3 times a day – only comes as brand so is expensive – benefit is that you can take one in the morning and if you get more symptoms you can take in the evening too
  • Chlorphenamine – Drowsy. lasts 8 hours, so can be taken upto 3 times daily

Try one of the above tablets and it should alleviate most of your hayfever symptoms. If that does not work then try another as you need to find the one that works for you. They are not all the same. Once you have found an antihistamine which works for you it is advisable to take this every day during the hayfever season to prevent the symptoms starting.

Eye drops: If you have runny eyes, try sodium cromoglicate eye drops – this comes as own brand but is also an ingredient in opticrom and optrex allergy eye drops. These are safe to use in addition to the tablets.

Nasal symptoms: If you have a runny nose you could add pseudoephedrine to dry the nose, for this reason I often recommend Benadryl plus, which contains acrivastine (an antihistamine) and pseudoephedrine (a nasal decongestant).
If you have a blocked nose you could try a nasal spray. Popular nasal sprays are beconase, flixonase and otrivine (otrivine should only be used for max 7 days).

Non medical tips and advice

  • Vaseline on around nasal area
  • Keep windows closed early evening
  • put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
  • stay indoors whenever possible
  • keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter


  • do not cut grass or walk on grass
  • do not spend too much time outside
  • do not keep fresh flowers in the house
  • do not smoke or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
  • do not dry clothes outside – they can catch pollen
  • do not let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors

When to contact the surgery

If you have tried all the above and are still suffering call the practice. We can prescribe a stronger antihistamine or you may need steroids.

If steroids and other hay fever treatments do not work, 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.

This kind of treatment usually starts in the winter about 3 months before the hay fever season begins.


Our lead pharmacist, Shilpa Patel, has 15 years experience serving patients in a community pharmacy setting and has been treating hayfever for many years. “If patients follow this advice this is a condition which can be kept at bay…my family and all suffer from hayfever and we make sure we take an antihistamine every day during the season as well as applying vaseline and using a nasal spray and it works for us all.”

Was this helpful?

Previous Article

Eyecare tips