[Guest blog] Six tips to manage your asthma during hay fever season

Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK
11 April 2019

The arrival of spring is upon us, bringing with it the promise of sunshine and longer days. But it also marks the start of hay fever season - causing blocked or runny noses, sneezing and itching. For most sufferers, the symptoms are unpleasant. But for around 3.3 million people living with asthma in the UK, having hay fever could also lead to an asthma attack. Studies show that when there’s more grass pollen in the air, more adults are admitted to hospital because of their asthma.

If you have asthma, pollen from trees, grasses and weeds can trigger your airways to become inflamed and narrow. This causes you to wheeze, cough, feel short of breath and have a tight chest. Hay fever can also make you more prone to react to other triggers like dust or pollution. But there are simple actions you can take to keep hay fever at bay and stay well with asthma. Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and GP Dr Andy Whittamore explains.

1. Take your asthma medicines as prescribed

Stay protected against asthma triggers, such as pollen, by taking your preventer medicine (usually a brown inhaler) as prescribed. This helps to reduce the underlying inflammation in your airways, building up protection over time and making you less likely to react to triggers.

2. Carry your reliever inhaler with you

Make sure you have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you at all times in case your symptoms flare up unexpectedly.

3. Have an asthma review with your GP

To avoid pollen making your asthma worse, make sure you go for your yearly asthma review with your GP or asthma nurse. They can talk through your triggers and make sure your medicines are still working well for you. They’ll also help update your written asthma action plan which tells you what medicine you need to take, how to spot if your asthma’s getting worse and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

Download an asthma action plan.

4. Find the right hay fever medicine for you and take it early

Hay fever medicines like antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays play a key role in helping soothe the irritating itchiness and blocked nose that can trigger an asthma attack. Hay fever medicines are safe to take alongside your normal asthma medication, but there are lots of different types and it can be trial and error to find the one that suits you. If you can, start taking hay fever medicines early – up to four weeks before pollen is expected to hit – to make sure you’re completely protected. If pollen season has already begun, start taking hay fever medicines as soon as possible and continue throughout the season. See Asthma UK’s website for detailed advice about hay fever treatments for people with asthma.

5. Check for weather warnings

Hot weather, thunderstorms and pollution can affect pollen levels and can cause people with even mild asthma to struggle to breathe. For example, on hot, sunny days more pollen is released and thunderstorms can sweep the pollen into the air and break it into much smaller pieces. You might then breathe these small particles of pollen into the smaller airways of your lungs - triggering asthma symptoms. On warm, dry days air pollution can trap pollen, preventing it from escaping into the upper atmosphere which can make hay fever symptoms worse.

Keep an eye on the weather forecasts to prepare yourself. Follow Asthma UK on Facebook or Twitter for up-to-date advice and alerts on how weather, pollution and pollen might affect you.

6. Seek urgent medical help if your asthma’s getting worse

If you’re using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, you may be at risk of an asthma attack and you should see your GP urgently. If your red eyes and itchy nose won’t go away despite nasal sprays and antihistamines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if there’s other medication you could try. You can find out more information about pollen and asthma at and speak to Asthma UK’s nurses on 0300 222 57800.

Asthma UK received a grant from the Bupa UK Foundation. The Bupa UK Foundation funds practical projects that will make a direct impact on people's health and wellbeing. Launched in 2015, to date it has awarded over £1.4 million in grants to more than 50 projects across the UK to improve people’s mental health, support carers and empower young adults living with ongoing health challenges to live life to the full.

Asthma UK funds research to help stop asthma attacks and cure asthma, provides advice for people with asthma through its website and nurse staffed helpline. To find out more visit

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Dr Andy Whittamore
Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK

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