Hints and Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

The Eyecare Trust issues advice for the thirteen million hay fever sufferers in the UK as experts predict that 2007 could be a record for grass pollen counts.

Symptoms of this pollen allergy, which include itchy red and water eyes as well as frequent sneezing and a runny or blocked nose, begin with the grass season in mid-May and can last through until early August.

Exposure to pollen grain can set off an allergic reaction as the conjunctiva (a transparent membrane covering the whites of the eye) becomes inflamed causing watery, red, itchy eyes. The whites of your eyes may swell up and you may also experience a gritty feeling in your eyes.

Other hay fever symptoms include: sneezing, itchy nose and throat, headaches, wheezing and other asthma-like symptoms.

Treating Hay Fever

Most hay fever suffers complain about symptoms affecting their eyes, nose, throat and chest. However, you will normally only need to treat the most dominant symptoms (in more serious cases a combination of medications may be required - ask your GP or Pharmacist for advice).

Starting treatment early can keep your hayfever mild. Hayfever itself makes your nose inflamed and sensitive. So as the season goes on your symptoms may worsen even though you're exposed to the same amount of pollen! Some treatments prevent this from happening, for example the nose sprays which have steroids in them. Starting your treatment just before you expect your hayfever season to start can mean you need less treatment.

What Treatments Are There For Hay Fever?

There are many treatments* available to you including:

Avoiding pollen

There may be some useful things you could do, from closing windows to damp dusting, and even wearing the right sunglasses.


Antihistamine treatments are widely available. They work by limiting the effect of histamine on the eyes, and the lining of the nose and throat by suppressing any swelling or inflammation. This is the most common treatment for multiple symptoms of hayfever.


Anti-allergenic nose sprays and eye drops block the breakdown of mast cells and help to reduce the release of histamine. These treatments act as a protective defence so any break in treatment may result in hayfever symptoms returning.


Steroid eye drops are very effective but can lead to serious side effects such as glaucoma, cataracts and damage to the cornea. If you want to take steroid sprays or drops, please consult your GP.


Decongestant treatments can be effective in helping to relieve blocked noses.

*Always use medication as directed by your GP. Read labels carefully.

Tips For Managing Hay Fever

o Wear sunglasses with close fitting shields at sides, tops and bottoms o Avoid going out in the early evening and mid morning when the pollen count is at it's highest.

o Don't drive with your window open

o Never sleep with your bedroom window open

o Wash your hair before going to bed to avoid irritation whilst sleeping

o Avoid mowing the lawn and weeding

o Take medication as advised by your GP or pharmacist. Some treatments are available without prescription such as Allergy Eye Drops.

o Bathe your eyes regularly in cold water

o Smear a dab of Vaseline inside each nostril to ease any soreness and capture any pollen before it enters the nasal passage.

Some more Do's and Don'ts for Contact Lens wearers . . .


o DO try to avoid wearing contact lenses in hot, dry or dusty environments. If there is no choice, try to wear sunglasses as well, which will help protect your lenses and eyes from dust and pollen.

o DO try to avoid wearing your contact lenses when gardening or mowing the lawn, as dust and grass pollen will get into your eyes.

o DO ask your eyecare practitioner about lubricating drops. Warm and dusty conditions may cause dryness in your eyes.

o DO ask your GP if you will be helped by many of the new medications for hayfever. These anti-allergy products do not make you sleepy but greatly reduce the symptoms of allergy.

o DO ask your GP about anti-inflammatory drops, which may prevent the worst signs of irritation.

o DO wear your prescription spectacles on days when the pollen count is particularly high, especially if you live in an urban area.

o DO wear your lenses in the evenings. The pollen count is usually much lower then and therefore less irritating to the eyes.

o DO reduce the length of time you wear your lenses for everyday. A good benchmark is around 12 hours.


o DON'T sunbathe in your contact lenses and remember not to get suntan lotion on them.

o DON'T ever take your lenses out and clean them in your mouth to try to wash off any pollen or dust.

o DON'T continue to wear your lenses if your eyes become very sore and red. If in doubt, take them out and contact your eyecare practitioner.

o DON'T use lubricating eye drops without first seeking professional advice from your optometrist or GP.

By following these simple guidelines, most hay fever sufferers should be able to wear their contact lenses throughout the hay fever season.

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