How to Recognise Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever Symptoms



How to Recognise Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever Symptoms
leading the fight against allergy
How to Recognise
Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever
01322 619898
The content of this leaflet was written and developed by Allergy UK.
Meda Pharmaceuticals provided the funding to Allergy UK for the
development and distribution of this leaflet. Meda Pharmaceuticals
reviewed the leaflet for factual accuracy. Allergy UK retained editorial
Date of preparation August 2014 UK/DYM/14/0008
Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever
Do you suffer from
allergic rhinitis/hay fever
Allergic rhinitis/hay fever is caused
when the body’s immune system
makes an allergy antibody (IgE) to a
normal substance such as pollen, house
dust mites, pets or moulds (allergens). With
people sensitive to these allergens, exposure
causes the release of chemicals from cells in
the nasal passages airways, and eyes. This results
in irritation and inflammation to the lining of the eyes,
nose and throat.
Grass pollen is the most common allergen, which affects sufferers at the
specific times of the year when grass pollen is released (late April–July).
However, some people are allergic to tree or weed pollens or mould spores
and will therefore be affected at different times of the year (February–June
for trees; May - September for weeds; and moulds for much of the year). The
patient who is allergic to tree, grass, weed pollens and mould spores may
suffer a very prolonged ‘hay fever’ season. The correct term for allergic rhinitis
which occurs for part of the year is ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’.
Symptoms that continue all year are ‘perennial allergic rhinitis’ and commonly
relate to indoor allergens such as house dust mites, pets and indoor moulds.
Symptoms include
sneezing, itchy, runny nose,
and irritation of the roof
of the mouth, deep in the
ears and in the back of the
throat. The subsequent
inflammation (swelling and
redness) causes a stuffy
nose and sinus congestion,
which make sleeping
difficult and can cause
headaches. The eyes may
itch and water and become
swollen, red and sore
(allergic conjunctivitis).
Management and Treatment
Allergic rhinitis/hay fever is often regarded as a trivial problem but it
severely affects many people’s quality of life. It disturbs sleep, and impairs
daytime concentration and the ability to carry out everyday activities,
including driving. It causes people to miss work or school, can have a
detrimental effect on exam results, and ruins people’s social lives.
People with allergic rhinitis/hay fever often have asthma or are at increased
risk of developing asthma. Inflammation in the nose, which is the first part
of the airway, often affects the rest of the airways that lead to the lungs.
Asthmatics who also suffer allergic rhinitis/hay fever may have less severe
asthma and fewer A&E and hospital admissions if their allergic rhinitis/hay
fever is treated effectively.
Management - Allergen avoidance
Pollens and mould spores are windborne and travel for miles on air currents
so are difficult to avoid but some simple measures can help. Avoidance of
house dust mite and pet allergen requires dedicated complex measures in
the home to reduce symptoms.
Anti-histamines suppress
histamine release so give quick
relief for mild symptoms. Nonsedating tablets or liquid may be
taken daily by mouth but are not
as effective as nasal sprays and eye
drops, used regularly.
Cromoglycate eye drops
also help, used several
times daily. For more
severe eye inflammation,
it is essential to see a
For persistent or more severe nasal
symptoms, the regular use of an antiinflammatory nasal spray is required.
These contain miniscule doses of
steroid medication which are effective
as they are sprayed directly to the
inflamed mucous membrane (lining)
of the nose, usually twice daily. These
sprays are available from pharmacists or
on prescription from your GP.
It is essential to use them correctly (see
instructions below).
For the most effective results for seasonal symptoms (allergic rhinitis/
hay fever) start the treatment before your symptoms normally occur doctors recommend two to four weeks.
Anti-histamines or nasal sprays can be used for symptom relief. Newer
treatments such as nasal sprays containing anti-histamines and
corticosteroids may be prescribed for moderate to severe symptoms.
Nasal sprays that contain decongestants may be useful for weddings,
flying or exams but should not be used regularly, as they can make
symptoms worse if used frequently.
How to use a nasal spray correctly:
Shake the bottle
If nose is blocked, use nasal douche and
blow nose
Look down, keep chin on chest
With bottle in right hand, spray into left
nostril away from centre. Sniff GENTLY
With bottle in left hand, spray into right
nostril away from centre. Sniff GENTLY
If two drops needed in each side, repeat as
Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever Symptom Checker
1. Do you suffer with some of the following symptoms: sneezing/runny
nose/stuffy nose/catarrh/itchy red swollen eyes/itching deep inside ears
and throat/itching roof of mouth?
2. Do you also suffer with any of the symptoms of asthma, i.e. wheezing/
tight chest/cough/shortness of breath?
If you have answered ‘No’ to questions 1 and 2 you will not need
to answer any further questions. If ‘Yes’ go to Question 3.
3. Do you suffer with several of the following symptoms?
Runny nose
Itchy/watery/red or swollen sore eyes
Itching deep inside ears/roof of mouth/throat
Stuffy nose/sinusitis
Wheezing/shortness of breath/tight chest
4. Do you experience these symptoms for:
Several days a week
5. Have your symptoms lasted for:
More than two consecutive weeks
6. What time of year do you have symptoms which
affect your normal life activities (work/school/
January - March
April - August
September - December
What do your answers mean?
Please use this
symptom checker
as a guide when
talking to your
If you have answered ‘Yes’ to Q4 and Q5, you
should seek advice from your doctor, as there
are treatments that can improve your symptoms
and quality of life, and prevent your condition
becoming worse.
Q6 - If your symptoms occur:
• April to August this suggests outdoor
allergens such as pollens, weeds and moulds
could be a trigger
• September to March this suggests indoor
allergens such as house dust mite, pets and
Advice on managing symptoms can be obtained
from Allergy UK’s website: or
contact the helpline: 01322 619898
Allergy UK is the operational name of the British Allergy Foundation,
a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales.
Charity No: 1094231 / Company No: 4509293 / Registered in Scotland - Charity No: SCO39257

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