NHS sees huge increase in traffic to hay fever advice pages as pollen levels surge

Latest UK Health & Medical News »

Wednesday 14th June 2023

The NHS has experienced a huge increase in traffic to its hay fever advice pages amid a surge in pollen levels. The number of weekly visitors to the NHS website’s hay fever pages has tripled since the start of May and hit an all-time high on Sunday June 11th. One person visited the site every 3 seconds on Sunday to access advice for coping with hay fever.  In the week commencing June 5th, more than 122,000 people visited NHS England’s online pages looking for information about hay fever. Pollen levels are very high across most parts of the country at the moment, with many people experiencing more severe symptoms than usual.

The pollen count is expected to remain high or very high for most areas throughout the rest of this week (week commencing June 12th). NHS England has shared advice and guidelines for those who are struggling with symptoms, including applying petroleum jelly around the nostrils to trap pollen, washing and cleaning clothes after going outside, keeping doors and windows closed and avoiding mowing the lawn. It is also possible to buy a pollen filter for cars and a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter for vacuuming. Hay fever is a seasonal allergy, which is caused by a reaction to pollen. Most people get symptoms between March and September due to high levels of tree and grass pollen. Symptoms of hay fever include itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, red eyes, headaches, earache and a loss of the sense of smell.

There is currently no cure for hay fever, but there are many therapies and treatments that can be used to ease symptoms. Many people take over-the-counter medications, known as antihistamines. These drugs work by blocking the release of histamine, which causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Other products include nasal sprays, eye drops and barrier balms, which trap pollen before they reach the nostrils and eyes. In most cases, hay fever is a relatively mild condition, which can be unpleasant but doesn’t cause severe symptoms. For some people, however, it can be debilitating, especially when the pollen count is very high. People with severe symptoms, which interfere with day-to-day life are advised to seek advice from their GP or a pharmacist. Stronger treatments, including steroid medications, are available but there is a risk of side effects.

The best way to reduce the severity of symptoms of hay fever is to avoid going outside, particularly for those living close to green spaces including gardens, parks, meadows and fields, but many will be keen to make the most of the sunshine and warm weather over the summer. For those who are braving going out, it is advisable to wear sunglasses and take antihistamines or apply barrier balm before leaving the house. On returning home, it is advisable to wash clothing to remove pollen. 

The NHS estimates that up to 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience symptoms of hay fever at some point in their lives. The condition occurs when the body reacts to fine pollen powders produced by trees and grass. The tree pollen hay fever season usually begins in the spring. Symptoms of grass allergies are more common in late spring and early summer. Most people start to develop symptoms of hay fever during childhood or their teenage years but some people don’t get symptoms until much later in life. The allergy affects men and women equally. People who have other allergies and conditions like asthma and eczema and those with a family history of hay fever are more likely to experience hay fever symptoms.