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How long does hay fever last?

Considered to be one of the most common allergies in the UK, hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, affects around 13 million people across the UK alone. Although relatively low-risk, hay fever can be considerably debilitating for sufferers, and can significantly impact their quality of life – but how long does hay fever actually last?

If you’re in the dark about the longevity of this common allergy, then today you should find everything you need to know about what to expect, how to tackle your symptoms and be prepared for summer.

What is hay fever?

Most of us will have heard of hay fever, but you may not know what it means or how it affects the body. In short, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen or dust. When inhaled, they irritate the mucus membranes found in the eyes and nose, causing inflammation – and leading to a range of symptoms.

Typically, hay fever is at its worst between the months of May and September, as these tend to be the hottest months when the pollen count is at its highest.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Depending on how severe your allergies are will determine how much you suffer, however the following are the most common signs of hay fever:

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Sore and swollen under-eyes

Can hay fever be serious?

Hay fever is not considered to be a serious allergy, however in the most severe cases it can cause other health complications that may require further treatments. Some of these include:

  • Worsening asthma
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia
  • Sinusitis
  • Ear infections
  • Reduced quality of life

Who can hay fever affect?

Unfortunately hay fever can take hold in anyone, young or old, male or female.

When does hay fever kick-in?

Although it is possible to suffer the signs and symptoms of hay fever all year-round, the chances are that you will find your allergies flare up most during the spring and summer months. This is because tree pollen, grass pollen, dust mites and pet dander are often at their highest during this time.

How long does hay fever last?

Sadly, there is no guaranteed time frame for hay fever symptoms. How long your hay fever lasts really depends on a variety of factors, including your level of exposure to allergens, the type of weather at the time, whether you are actively treating your symptoms and what type of pollen you are allergic to.

As a general guide, tree pollen lasts the longest amount of time. Tree pollen allergies can begin as early as February and last until June.

Grass and weed pollen don't last as long and typically peak during summer. Allergies to grass pollen start from May and last until June, while symptoms caused by weed pollen can occur from June to September.

Typically, severity of symptoms will fluctuate from week to week, or month to month depending on pollen levels, but in general hay fever can last anywhere between a few weeks and a few months.

It is also important to note that everyone is different. While some may suffer mild irritation, others can find hay fever to be incredibly debilitating and may find little relief from medications. In general however, most people find that their hay fever symptoms ease up as they get older - with around 10-20% of sufferers reporting their symptoms completely disappear after several years.

How can you reduce your hay fever symptoms?

While there is no cure for hay fever, there are some things you can do to reduce the severity of your symptoms:

  • Seek advice from your pharmacy or doctor. There are a range of over-the-counter antihistamines which can help, or your GP may prescribe medication in more severe cases or when other treatments haven't worked.
  • Keep a close eye on the pollen count.
  • Refrain from going outdoors during a high pollen count.
  • Have a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors to remove any pollen that has attached to you.
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses when out and about to protect your eyes from exposure to pollen.
  • Applying Vaseline (petroleum gel) around the nasal passages can help to trap pollen and avoids getting an excessively runny nose.

Things to avoid during high pollen season:

  • Cutting the grass
  • Walks through fields
  • Fresh flowers indoors
  • Drying clothes outside
  • Having a lot of contact with pets (typically cats and dogs carry a lot of pollen in their fur when they have been outside)

The bottom line on hay fever

While incredibly irritating and inconvenient, hay fever usually won’t pose any major threat to your general health – but we understand it can certainly make life difficult during peak seasons.

To help fight the unwelcome signs of hay fever, it can help to come prepared with an effective and fast acting treatment such as the Nasonex intranasal treatment spray or Neoclarityn tablets. These types of medicines can offer relief when you need it most, and can help to clear the airways during those trickier days.

For itching and watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis) brought on from hay fever, there are eye drops available from pharmacies such as Murine Hayfever Relief and Optrex Hayfever Relief. These eye drops can reduce irritation, redness and tearing up which are commonly associated with hay fever.

Authored & Reviewed By

Mohamed Imran Lakhi

MPharm - Lead Pharmacist
Imran Lakhi is the superintendent pharmacist and founder at Prescription Doctor. He has been at the core of our team.

Published on: 24/07/2019 Reviewed on: 25/03/2021
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