As summer progresses, grass pollen is on the rise and is likely to peak in the middle two weeks of June. 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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, thunderstorms and high pollution can make your hay fever worse and heighten your risk of an attack.
Thunderstorms 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 or pollution
- If hay fever combines with a cold, the extra inflammation can make your asthma symptoms even worse.
Last updated May 2019
Next review due May 2022