The three different types of hay fever – and how to spot them


Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common allergic reaction in the UK.

Nearly half (up to around 49%) of the population report suffering from the condition, with up to 37% developing symptoms for the first time in the last five years, according to Allergy UK.

Hay fever is characterised by symptoms including itchy eyes and throat, sneezing or a blocked nose, watery red eyes, headaches, shortness of breath, tiredness and mucus in the back of the throat.

We often talk in general terms about hay fever, but there are actually three different types of the condition.

Different types of hay fever

According to Allergy UK, there are three main types of hay fever from three different types of pollen: grass, ragweed and tree (sometimes referred to separately as “oak” and “birch” pollens).

You may be affected by one or more of these at different points during the year.

“While some people with hay fever react to one type of pollen during the ‘season’, and then feel better later in the year, it is also possible to be affected by more than one type of pollen or airborne allergen, leading to many months of rhinitis,” Allergy UK states.

Understanding which type of hay fever you have (i.e. which pollen is causing it) can help you prevent and treat your condition.

Pollens affect hay fever sufferers at different times

"Tree pollen occurs first, typically from late March to mid-May. Grass (which actually has two peaks) lasts from mid-May until July, and weed pollen covers the end of June to September," explains the official Met Office website.

"Tree pollen occurs first, typically from late March to mid-May, and affects around 25% of people. Most people are allergic to grass pollen (which actually has two peaks) and the season lasts from mid-May until July. Weed pollen can be released at any time but the season typically covers the end of June to September."

It also points out that dependent on where you live in the UK, hay fever season will start at different times. "For example, there’s a later start and shorter season in the north of the UK, where generally there is less pollen. Urban areas have lower counts than the countryside, and places inland have higher counts than around the coast."

How to avoid pollen

  • Check pollen counts before you leave the house – avoid going out if they are high.

  • Shower and change clothes when you get indoors.

  • Avoid drying clothes outside.

  • Keep windows closed, particularly in early morning and evenings when pollen counts are high.

  • Wipe pets’ coats with a damp microfibre cloth when they come inside.

How to treat hay fever

Early prevention is best, according to Allergy UK’s nurse advisor Holly Shaw – so start taking medication preventatively if you think you are susceptible to hay fever.

“If people start to become symptomatic they should start taking their medications early so they will be most effective when the pollen levels really peak,” she previously told Yahoo UK.

The below medicines are usually recommended, but ask your pharmacist to decide which is best for you.

  • Antihistamines to block the allergic reaction.

  • Medication to reduce inflammation, e.g. nasal steroids (these must be prescribed by a doctor).

  • Corticosteroid tablets to relieve severe symptoms (also prescribed by a doctor).

Source: Francesca Specter, Yahoo Style UK deputy editor

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