Hay fever – not to be sniffed at

9th March 2023

The NHS is urging people to start taking their preventative hay fever medicines now to help build up their resilience for when the pollen count rises this month and into the spring.  

Hay fever affects one in four people in the UK and is an allergic reaction to pollen. It’s usually worse between March and September, especially when it is warm, humid and windy causing the pollen count to be higher.

Symptoms of hay fever can be quite uncomfortable and include sneezing and coughing, itchy, red or watery eyes, loss of smell, headaches and tiredness.

The condition can easily be managed at home with over-the-counter treatments available from pharmacies or supermarkets and come in tablet, nasal spray or eye drop form.

Patients are encouraged to buy their hay fever medicines over the counter instead of getting them on prescription as they are often cheaper for the patient and could reduce the £1.5 million currently spent prescribing these medications in Norfolk and Waveney each year.

If people require further advice around hay fever, pharmacists are well placed to offer advice if someone is struggling with managing their symptoms.

If people usually get hay fever, it is advised they begin taking preventative medication as they normally would from now to allow it to be working optimally when the pollen count rises.  

Jessica Adcock, Deputy Chief Pharmacist and Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Optimisation for NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: “Hay fever is a common seasonal condition and is unfortunately quite uncomfortable. The good news is it is generally easy to treat symptoms and antihistamines can be bought for a couple of pounds.

“Now is the time to start taking preventative nasal sprays if you usually suffer from hay fever as this will allow the medication to get into your system so you can build up resilience ready for when the pollen count rises towards the end of this month and beyond. Taking these medications regularly is much more effective than taking them as and when you have bad symptoms.

“We request that patients buy these medications over the counter at a pharmacy or supermarket as a prescription isn’t required. They are often cheaper than an NHS prescription fee and can help the NHS to reduce the £1.5 million currently spent on prescribing these medications annually.  

“If your symptoms do not improve by taking these medications or you have another condition which hay fever may be affected by, please see your GP.”