Hay Fever




What is hay fever and what causes it?

Hay fever (also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis) is a common condition which affects around 1 in 5 people in the UK and usually occurs during the spring or summer. It is caused when the body overreacts to substances (allergens) such as pollen from grass or flowers.

Symptoms of hay fever 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 the sides of your head and your forehead
  • headache
  • feeling tired

The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person; some can manage their condition by avoiding triggers and others may need medication to manage their symptoms, such as steroid nose sprays, antihistamine tablets and eye drops. Symptoms often lessen over the years. Some people suffer symptoms all year round; this is called perennial allergic rhinitis.


General advice to avoid triggers?

  1. Keep house and car windows closed, especially when the pollen counts are high (early morning between 7am to 9am and evenings between 5pm and 7pm).
  2. Avoid large grassy areas, woodland, cutting the grass, pollutants, and car fumes.
  3. Use petroleum jelly inside your nose to block inhalation of pollen.
  4. Don’t dry washing outside to avoid pollen sticking to your clothes.
  5. Put petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) around your nostrils to trap pollen
  6. wear wraparound sunglasses, a mask or a wide-brimmed hat to stop pollen getting into your nose and eyes
  7. shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
  8. vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  9. try to use a pollen filter in the air vents of your car, if you have one, and a HEPA filter in your vaccum cleaner

What changes have been made and how will this affect me?

In line with the updated NHS England national guidance, NHS Devon does not support routine prescribing for mild to moderate hay fever, as it is an uncomplicated condition that can usually be managed without medical intervention. This includes antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops indicated for this use.

If you are experiencing common seasonal hay fever symptoms, you should no longer go to your GP to get a prescription. Instead, you should seek support from a local pharmacist and/or buy over the counter medication to treat your symptoms at a pharmacy or supermarket.

Your local pharmacists are qualified to provide safe medical advice. They will be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your symptoms and can also suggest other non-medicated ways of controlling your condition. They will also be able to advise when you do actually need to see a doctor for your symptoms.

Learn more about Hay Fever on the NHS website

You should see your GP if you experience wheezing, breathlessness/tightness in the chest, are pregnant / breastfeeding, or if your symptoms are not relieved by OTC treatments in combination with measures to reduce your exposure to pollen.


Why has this change been made?

The local NHS is under pressure to make sure resources are shared fairly amongst the local population. This is a difficult balance to achieve, but there is a wide range of over the counter medicines available to treat hay fever in pharmacies and supermarkets, which makes them readily accessible for patients to purchase without needing to see a GP. These medicines are often cheaper than medicines on prescription.