Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, plants release tiny pollen grains, which are then used to fertilize other plants. Those pollen grains are transported from plant to plant by insects, by the wind, by birds, and other animals. Grass pollen is by far the most common cause of hay fever in the UK but other types which can cause allergic reactions include tree and weed pollen.
The amount of pollen in the air can affect whether allergy symptoms develop or not. Hot, dry, windy days are more likely to feature airborne pollen, while cool or damp days tend to wash pollen to the ground.
Hay fever occurs when your immune system wrongly identifies a common substance, like pollen, as harmful to your body. In response, immune system cells called mast cells bind to the pollen, signalling release of a chemical called histamine into your bloodstream which causes symptoms, like sneezing, itchy nose, and puffy eyes.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Hay fever symptoms may include:
- Runny nose and Nasal Congestion
- Watery, itchy, red eyes
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
If you have hay fever, you will notice cold-like symptoms, but unlike a cold, which usually subsides within 2 weeks, hay fever can occur for over 2 weeks when you are in contact with your allergy trigger. Find out more about the differences between allergies and colds.
Hay Fever in Children
Hay Fever Relief for Children
Tips for handling hay fever
Whilst it is impossible to escape pollen completely (as much as you’d like to) there are some things that you can do to help reduce your exposure.
Avoid spending time in rural areas
Sea breezes can blow pollen in land; heading to the coast can help you to escape the pesky plants!
Wash when you get home
Pollen can stick to your skin and hair. On high pollen days, showering and washing your hair after arriving home and changing your clothing can help to reduce symptoms.
Keep windows and doors closed
This is most important in the mornings and evening when pollen levels peak. Shutting windows and doors can help to keep the pollen outside of your home. If you are still suffering indoors an air filter such as a HEPA filter may be able to help.
Dress for the weather
Wear wraparound sunglasses and a hat with a large brim, this can help to keep pollen out of your eyes and off your face.
Keep track of daily pollen levels
Keeping track of daily pollen can also help. Mid-morning until afternoon is usually the time of the highest concentration of pollen in the air. Try to avoid being outdoors on particularly windy days when pollen is stirred up and mixed into the air.
If you are still suffering you may require medication. Find out more about the allergy treatment options available to you.