Six ways to relieve hay fever symptoms

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
07 May 2024
Next review due May 2027

Do you find yourself sneezing, have a blocked or runny nose, or sore and itchy eyes between March and September? If so you may have hay fever. It’s on the rise and affects almost half of the UK population. A 2020 study also suggests that more than one third of people affected had developed hay fever symptoms for the first time in the last five years.

Meadow flowers during Spring

With the pollen season in full swing, I share how to relieve hay fever symptoms in six simple ways. I also explore what’s behind the rise in hay fever sufferers.

1. Check the pollen count

The Met Office’s pollen forecast gives a daily update on the pollen count in your area. By staying ahead of the forecast, you can take protective measures to help reduce your exposure if the count is high.

2. Keep the outdoors from coming in

Try to keep doors and windows shut. If you’re in the car, avoid opening the window and use the air-conditioning instead. If your car has pollen filters, make sure you get these changed at each service.

3. Wash away the pollen

Pollen can settle on your clothes and in your hair. Wash them regularly to remove any pollen that might have accumulated. When you wash your clothes, avoid drying them outside. Use an indoor drying rack instead. It might help to shower and change your clothes after being outside too.

4. Protect your nose and eyes

The classic symptoms of hay fever start when pollen comes into contact with your nose and eyes. Reduce this happening by:

  • wearing wrap-around sunglasses
  • putting a barrier balm (such as Vaseline) around your nose
  • using nasal filters (an air filter that fits inside your nostrils)

5. Invest in a HEPA filter

A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is designed to trap small particles, such as pollen, and stop them from circulating around your home. Some vacuum cleaners come with a built-in HEPA filter, so this could be something to consider.

6. Find medicines that work for you

Last but not least, get your medication right. There are many different medicines, including hay fever tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops. You can buy many of these over the counter from your local pharmacy or supermarket. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicines for hay fever, but in the first instance ask your pharmacist for advice.

What’s causing the rise in hay fever?

A report by Allergy UK suggests that the increase in hay fever may be linked to rising temperatures and pollution. This is causing longer pollen seasons.

The increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, for example, has caused plants to produce more pollen. This may be causing people to have worse hay fever symptoms – especially during warm weather and when pollution levels are high.

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Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP



Marcella McEvoy, Senior Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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