Nothing to Sneeze at!

By Hasnain Hassam, Pharmaceutical Specialist

I’ve just sneezed again and my nose and eyes feel itchy. My colleagues in the pharmacy think I’ve caught a cold and I can see from the corner of my eye that one or two have shuffled away from me in the hope they don’t catch it too! Another colleague is frantically trying to find a box of tissues for me to use.

Well, I can truly say it’s definitely not a cold! Though the signs and symptoms would indicate that it could well be a common cold. I’m suffering from hay fever and have done so for several years now. I guess the reason for all this is that spring is finally here, though staring out the window and seeing the overcast sky it may not yet feel like that.

Spring is that time in the year when plants are beginning to bloom, grass is rapidly growing on lawns and parks and the trees are now filling with leaves, and so the pollen in the air is probably at its highest level. It’s also meant to be a wonderful time in the seasonal calendar, but for many people like me it’s also brings the dreaded hay fever symptoms. According to Allergy UK, every year the number of allergy sufferers in the UK increases by 5%. Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen (mostly grass pollen) and is most common from May to July. Hay fever affects more than 20% of the UK population.

Hay fever or more specifically the pollen in the air affects mainly the delicate lining of the nose, throat, and the inside of the eyes. This, in turn, causes a histaminic reaction in the body which brings about the below symptoms.


  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, sore, watery eyes
  • Itchy, blocked or runny nose
  • Itchy throat

Other symptoms that can occur occasionally are: headaches, sinus pain, fever and temperature, wheezing and shortness of breath

Treatments available:

  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Eye drops
  • Nasal sprays (both steroid and non-steroid based)

Other non-medicinal measures:

  • Ensuring windows are kept closed
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses when outside
  • Nasal balms that will help reduce pollen getting into your nose

At this time of the year, most weather reports on the television will now also be giving you a hay fever update and will mention the severity of the pollen in the air as either high, moderate, or low, so keep a look out for this as you plan the day.

So, what does this mean for your service users and how can you support them?

You may already have several service users who normally suffer from hay fever during the Spring and Summer, so now is the time when you should be asking their GP for medication to help alleviate their symptoms. As for those service users who are beginning to develop hay fever-like symptoms, you should seek advice from their GP as to the best course of action and of course to rule out the common cold or Flu as I mentioned earlier the signs and symptoms may well be similar.

You should also contact your pharmacist to seek additional advice and perhaps discuss other measures to prevent the symptoms of hay fever and hopefully that will help your service users get the most enjoyment from the coming months.

If you require  further information on the discussion above or indeed any enquiries regarding Care in your own home, please contact our office on 01623 360 193 or email us at

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