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Through the long, cold, wet winter months we are all longing for warmer days.  With Springtime comes bees, birdsong, the trees turn green again and the season of flowers and grass cutting begins.

If you suffer from allergies however this can be a nightmare.  Months of sneezing, watery eyes and stuffy noses makes going outside and running through a wild-flower meadow impossible.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone. In fact the UK has one of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions on the planet, 1 in 3 of us are living with allergies and hay fever.  That’s around 21 million people in total, with all age groups impacted by hay fever symptoms in the UK.

There is often a surge in people seeing their GPs when the sun comes out primarily for this reason.  Whilst some have tried the full gamut of hay fever products from the chemist, the vast majority have not.

Off the shelf hay fever medications are considered first-line treatment.  Whilst clinical staff at your GP surgery have a more potent artillery of medications to offer on prescription, these are second line.  You can’t progress to these without having a trial of the first-line medications.  It’s arguably better for you and the surgery to save a GP appointment for if you need help beyond that which you can access yourself.

Products worth considering are:

  • Antihistamines

The body reacts to pollen from grasses, trees, flowers and weeds as if it is harmful and produces histamine.  It is this histamine which causes the symptoms of hayfever.

General hayfever symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes/ throat and coughing respond well to anti-histamines which are available as tablets, capsules or liquids from your local chemist.

Anti-histamines (non drowsy for daytime) eg. Cetirizine, Loratadine and Fexofenadine are available from the chemist

Anti-histamines (drowsy for night or other times if not driving/ operating machinery) eg. piriton, promethazine

For all medications make sure you read the information leaflet to ensure it is suitable for you and you know how to use it correctly.  If in doubt please speak to the pharmacist and mention any medical conditions or medications you are taking, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

  • Eye Symptoms

Specifically for the eyes look for eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate – this can stop the release of histamine from cells to stop the watering and provide relief from the itching.  They need to be used regularly in both eyes to prevent symptoms.  Sometimes they can make the vision blurry when first put in the eyes however this will clear. Some common brand names include Opticrom, Optrex, Allercrom, Catacrom amongst other shop specific brands like Boots HayfeverRelief Eye Drops).

  • Nasal Symptoms

Treatment for nasal symptoms, for those aged 18 and over, include a steroid nasal spray.  This works by reducing inflammation within the nose and helps control allergic symptoms associated with hayfever.  This tends to take 2-3 weeks of regular use before the full benefit is seen.  Options to buy over the counter are beconase hayfever, nasacort allergy and flixonase pirinase amongst others.


Summary of products available:

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If your hayfever symptoms are not controlled after 2-4 weeks, you may need to try a different treatment or add in a different product.  It may take some time to find the best combination of tablet, eye treatment and nasal spray for you.

Should your symptoms not be controlled with these products, or side effects are troublesome, please do seek further advice from your GP surgery.

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