Pollen, hay fever and asthma

Cut your risk of an asthma attack triggered by pollen

Grass pollen and asthma 

Thunderstorms, pollen and asthma

When to see your GP

Cut your asthma risk in 3 simple steps

Pollution and hay fever 

Which pollen are you allergic to?

Get the most from your medicines

Why hay fever makes asthma worse

Grass pollen and asthma

There will be high levels of grass pollen in the air on warm, sunny days. Don't be surprised if your hay fever symptoms are bad - around 90% of people with hay fever are allergic to grass pollen. 

When grass pollen levels are high, more people are admitted to hospital with asthma attacks – that’s why taking your asthma and hay fever medicines as prescribed is so important.

Thunderstorms, pollen and asthma - 'thunderpollen'

Storms can spark asthma symptoms because they smash pollen into tiny bits that go deeper into your lungs. Find out how to reduce your risk of an asthma attack triggered by hay fever when there's thunder around. 

When to see your GP about your symptoms

The common symptoms of hay fever are itchiness, runny eyes and a blocked nose. If you also notice any of the following:

  • Feeling wheezy
  • Feeling breathless
  • Coughing more than usual
  • Needing to use your reliever inhaler three times a week or more

– then ask your GP for an urgent, next day appointment. By starting treatment quickly, you can get on top of your symptoms and reduce your risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

If you don’t think you have hay fever, but your asthma is still getting worse, still see your GP urgently. You don’t have to put up with your asthma symptoms.  

Take these 3 simple steps to cut your asthma risk from hay fever

1. Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every day

Reliever inhalers quickly relax the muscles in your airways and ease your symptoms on the spot – but only for a short period of time. For long term control, start using a preventer inhaler. Your GP can prescribe inhalers if you don’t have them.

2. Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed

Preventer inhalers reduce sensitivity and swelling in your airways, helping stop wheezing and coughing before they even start. Take consistently for best results.  

3. Take antihistamine pills and sprays and/or use a steroid nasal spray

There are lots of different medicine options and it’s a question of finding out which ones suit you. See our hay fever treatments page for our asthma nurses’ advice, or ask your pharmacist.

 Pollution and hay fever 

High pollution can make your hay fever worse and heighten your risk of an attack.   

Pollution has been shown to make hay fever worse, but scientists aren't sure why. It could be that pollution makes pollen more likely to trigger an allergic reaction, or makes people's airways more sensitive. Find out how to reduce your risk of an asthma attack on high pollution and pollen days. 

Discover which pollen is your personal trigger

Are you allergic to plane trees? Birch? Grass pollen? It can help to know - although the treatment is the same, whatever the pollen.

To work out which pollen sets off your hay fever, note the days when your symptoms are bad and use our pollen calendar to see when each pollen is released. 

Get the most from your hay fever medicines

If you regularly get hay fever, start taking antihistamines up to four weeks before you normally get symptoms.

If you usually use a steroid nasal spray, remember it can take up to two weeks to start working, so again, start using it before the pollen you’re allergic to is released.

Why hay fever increases your risk of an asthma attack   

If you are allergic to pollen, then when you breathe it in, your body produces histamine and other chemicals. In turn, your body reacts by producing lots of mucus and inflammation, often blocking your nose so you have to breathe through your mouth as well as making you feel itchy and sneeze a lot.

If you have asthma, this chain reaction can mean that: 

  •  Your already inflamed airways might swell up even more, leaving you struggling for breath
  • You're more likely to react to other triggers, like dust, cigarette smoke and pollution
  • If hay fever combines with a cold, the extra inflammation can make your asthma symptoms even worse. 

Last updated December 2019

Next review due May 2022