Pollen, hay fever and asthma

Cut your risk of an asthma attack triggered by pollen

Hay fever can increase your risk of an asthma attack   

  • it can cause your already inflamed airways to swell up even more, leaving you fighting for breath
  • it makes your already sensitive airways 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. 

Take these 3 simple steps to cut your asthma risk when you have 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. Blitz hay fever symptoms with antihistamine pills and sprays and/or 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.

See your GP if your asthma is getting worse

If you have hay fever and you also:

  • feel wheezy
  • feel breathless
  • are coughing more than usual
  • are needing to use your reliever inhaler three times a week or more

then it’s very likely your hay fever is triggering your asthma. If you start treatment quickly, you can get on top of your symptoms and reduce your risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. Ask your GP for an urgent, next day appointment.

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

Discover which pollen is your personal trigger

Different pollens are released at different times, but our changeable weather makes it hard to predict exactly when. So 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 your personal pollen trigger is released.

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 which pollen could be your trigger. 

Hay fever, pollution, hot weather and thunderstorms 

Lots of people find their hay fever is worse when there’s high pollution, especially when hot weather makes pollution worse. Pollution molecules stick to pollen grains, so they hang about in the air longer and are harder to get out of your airways.

Thunderstorms can also cause your symptoms to flare up, because they smash pollen into tiny bits that go deeper into your lungs.

These 3 steps will reduce your risk of an asthma attack from pollen combined with heat and/or pollution or thunder: 

1. Make sure you carry your reliever inhaler. If you need to use it three or more times a week, book an urgent GP appointment. You’re at risk of an asthma attack.

2. Try and stay away from the trigger – don’t go out in the heat or if pollution is high.

3. Take hay fever medicines to help reduce the allergic reaction that’s making your asthma worse – see our hay fever treatments page.

Last updated April 2019

Next review due April 2022