Many thousands of people are already suffering this spring as the trees release their pollen, although the majority of sufferers (around 95%) will be affected by the release of grass pollen in May.

The symptoms are caused by histamines - substances the body produces in response to allergic reactions - which is why doctors usually recommend antihistamine medication.

But despite the fact one in 10 people in the UK experience hayfever - one of the highest ratios in the world - the condition is not treated seriously enough, nor are sufferers given enough sympathy, according to Professor Jean Emberlin, director of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit at the University of Worcester.

"Around 25% of the population suffer this, and it affects 38% of teenagers. This is not a trivial condition. If you don't treat it, it can develop into asthma," she says.

"The most important thing is for people to recognise they have it. Many people wrongly dismiss it as not very serious, but it can make life truly miserable and adversely affect performance at work and for youngsters impact on their school work especially at summer exam times."

A recent report commissioned by Kleenex confirms her concerns.

It revealed that hayfever could be costing British businesses more than £7 billion a year in lost productivity and lack of concentration among employees.

"Times are particularly pressured at the moment and people need to continue to go to work if at all possible, despite their symptoms," Emberlin says.

"So sufferers should prepare for the season by sorting out what medication they need, and taking a few precautions such as checking pollen counts so they can plan their day and minimise pollen exposure."

What can I do?

"Know your enemy. Around 86% of us don't know which type of pollen we're allergic to, so try keeping a diary of your symptoms and match it against a pollen calendar," Emberlin says.

Check pollen forecasts at sites such as and avoid going out at peak pollen times.

Outdoor tips

Wear wraparound sunglasses, anti-allergenic eye make-up and apply Vaseline to nostrils to trap pollen before it enters nasal passages.

Don't dry washing outside on high pollen count days as it will collect pollen from the air. Change clothes and wash hair after being outside.

Avoid mowing the lawn, weeding or composting to avoid exposure to grasses, pollen and mould spores.

Keep car windows closed, service a car air filter regularly, and if possible choose a car with a pollen filter.

Indoor tips

On high and very high grass pollen count days the worst times are usually early morning (between 5-10am) and late afternoon (4-7pm), when most grasses release their pollen. Keep windows and doors closed at these times.

Drink plenty of water, around 2.5 litres a day, to help replace fluid lost through sweating and mucus generated by sneezing and coughing.

Cover beds and desks when not in use and fold covers back carefully when you want to use the area. Pollen is heavy and settles on surfaces quickly.

Brush cats or dogs as they may carry a lot of pollen in their fur.

For some respite, close windows and doors. Sit still and in about 25 minutes most of the pollen in the room will have settled so you will be breathing pollen-free air.


Treatment includes antihistamines, corticosteroids, nasal sprays and decongestants, and eye drops.

If symptoms are particularly severe consult a GP, who may refer you to an allergy specialist.

There is a huge range of over-the-counter remedies available, including Boots Hayfever and Allergy Relief Tablets (£11.99 for 60 tablets). These are taken once a day and don't cause drowsiness.

Another antidote, Benadryl Plus capsules, has an added decongestant and costs £4.99 for a 12-pack (

Nasal sprays

Nasal sprays can counter itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and sore throat.

Nasacort Allergy Nasal Spray (£4.95 for 30 sprays) is now available from pharmacists for the first time without prescription. It is taken as a daily dose and is available from pharmacies nationwide.

Alternatively, try Boots Pharmacy Hayfever & Allergy 50 Microgram Nasal Spray (£5.99).

Red nose remedy

A gadget that illuminates your nose so that it glows red, rather like Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer, sounds a strange way to relieve hayfever symptoms but Medinose claims a high success rate.

It looks like an iPod with prongs to insert in nostrils for a few minutes, and claims to significantly reduce symptoms when used over a few weeks.

It costs £79.99 from Health Innovations (call 0870 350 1264 or visit

Natural boosters

If drug-free solutions appeal, a new natural remedy that claims to give a powerful boost to the immune system could be beneficial during the pollen season.

It contains Quercetin, a natural plant extract to support the respiratory tract, and Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory.

Quercetin & Bromelain (£13.60 for 60 tablets) is available from Higher Nature (call 0800 458 4747 or visit

Alternatively, Apibal Freeze-Cracked Bee Pollen, which contains an extract of pollen, also aims to boost immunity and counter symptoms.

It's available from Revital health stores, mail order and online for £17.99. Call 0870 366 5729 or visit

Those interested in a homeopathy could match their symptoms to an appropriate remedy at, a new interactive online site launched by Nelsons.

Homeopathic remedy Pollenna (£4.60) is also available from Boots, Holland and Barrett, selected Tesco's and Lloydspharmacies.

Needle an allergy

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture also claim success with conditions such as hayfever.

"Acupuncture is proven to be very effective for the treatment of hay fever, and can help reduce all the irritating symptoms from congested sinus to tiredness," says Maureen Cromey, acupuncturist and member of the British Acupuncture Council.

By inserting fine needles into the channels of energy which run underneath the skin, acupuncturists believe they stimulate the body's own healing response and help restore its natural balance.

Weekly treatments are applied over a three to four week period although this varies depending on the severity of the allergy.

For a local practitioner contact the British Acupuncture Council (call 020 8735 0400 or visit

Band aid

A simple arm band claims to work by exerting a gentle, constant pressure at the elbow crease.

Chinese medicine expert Jacqueline Young explains that stimulation of particular points can have direct effect on certain body systems.

"One point on the elbow appears to have an anti-histamine-like effect and is widely used in the treatment of hayfever."

The Hay-Band (£9.99), a specially designed acupressure elbow band, can be used before or after onset of symptoms. It's available from Lloydspharmacy or online at

Time for tea

Peppermint is renowned for clearing congestion and helping to reduce sneezing, itching and wheezing.

Three Mint Tea (£1.95 for 20 sachets) or Refresh Tea (£2.09 for 20 sachets) both contain peppermint and are made by Pukka Herbs.

They're available from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons, and health stores. Call 0845 375 1744 or visit

Home help

Cleaning up the air at home with an air purifier may reduce pollen levels in rooms.

A Bionaire BAP412 Air Purifier (£79.95) is designed to clean air and removes airborne pollution, including allergens, as well as smoke and odours. It's available from John Lewis (