Understanding Hayfever

What is hayfever?

When hayfever strikes, your early morning boot camp exercise class or afternoon dog walk suddenly becomes a battle as you struggle to see through your itchy, watery eyes.

Hayfever can sometimes seem unpredictable, and you may experience a different severity of symptoms at different times of the year.

But although you probably know all too well what hayfever does, do you know what it is?

By understanding more about hayfever and how it impacts your body, you’ll be able to manage it effectively so you can enjoy sunny days – even when the pollen count is high.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is known as hayfever, an allergy to pollen, because it's quite common to experience hayfever mainly in the spring and summer months.

The allergy you might have to your best friend’s cat or dust mites, is known as perennial allergic rhinitis, which means they can strike at any time of year when you come into contact with your trigger.

When pollen gets into your upper respiratory passages – eyes or nose – the body releases a chemical called histamine. This substance is produced during the immune response to allergens and is responsible for triggering hayfever symptoms.

Hayfever triggers

There are several types of pollen that cause hayfever:

  • Tree pollen (especially birch)
  • Grass pollen
  • Weed pollen

Symptoms of hayfever

Hayfever symptoms are often very similar to a cold, but there are some important differences. If you have itchy eyes and throat, you can blame your hayfever and stop throwing shade at your friend who has an infectious summer cold.

Hayfever symptoms can last for weeks or months, while a cold will usually clear up within two weeks.

Common hayfever symptoms include:

  • itchy, sore or watery eyes
  • itchy throat
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • blocked nose or sinuses

Streaming eyes can impact important everyday tasks, such as driving your car or reading your computer screen at work – which may be annoying and can make it difficult to concentrate.

Stinging hayfever eyes may be annoying and can be frustrating for glasses and contact lens wearers. But there is effective treatment available – fast-acting Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops start to soothe eyes in just two minutes, so you can carry on with your day.

If you’re unsure whether or not you have hayfever, speak to your GP for advice and a diagnosis.

Who is affected by hayfever?

You’re more prone if you’ve had asthma or eczema

It tends to be more common in those who have (or used to have) asthma or eczema, or people who have a family history of hayfever.

Because it impacts the respiratory passages, hayfever can make asthma symptoms worse in some people who may be more susceptible. Keeping it under control with effective remedies can help.

Young boys are impacted more than young girls

Hayfever can affect both children and adults, and starts either in childhood or adulthood. Until adolescence, boys are more likely to experience hayfever than girls. In adults, hayfever affects men and women equally.

People born around hayfever season

If you were born during a period of high birch pollen, studies have found you may be at greater risk of developing hayfever than those born outside of this season.

You might get hayfever when your family and friends don’t

Hayfever strikes people differently. Just because your work colleague is sneezing all over her spreadsheets, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll start to feel hayfever symptoms too.

You may find your hayfever occurs at different times of the year to others, different times of the day, or lasts for a longer period. This is down to the types of pollen or spores that trigger hayfever in you.

Hayfever treatments that give you relief

There are plenty of hayfever remedies to help you get through the day without needing a box of tissues with you at all times.

Eye drops

For many people, red and itchy eyes are a major symptom of hayfever. Drops designed especially for eyes can relieve symptoms effectively in this particularly sensitive area of the face.

Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops contain sodium cromoglicate. This active ingredient inhibits the release of histamine to help relieve irritating eye symptoms. The fast-acting drops start to work in just two minutes, so you can confidently take on the day, without needing to worry about hayfever getting in the way.

Antihistamine tablets

Antihistamine tablets work by blocking histamine receptors to reduce the symptoms and provide allergy relief. But some tablets can cause drowsiness, so check with your pharmacist which tablets are right for you.

Nasal sprays

There are different types of nasal sprays; antihistamine sprays work in the same way as antihistamine tablets to reduce hayfever responses; while corticosteroid nasal sprays, such as Nasacort Allergy*, help to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. It's possible to buy Nasacort Allergy over the counter from your pharmacist.

If your hayfever is difficult to control, your GP may be able to prescribe treatment for more severe symptoms.

* Nasacort Allergy Nasal Spray Suspension contains triamcinolone acetonide. Always read the label.

How hayfever and allergies affect our eyes

You’ll know that feeling when hayfever or allergies attack; eyes can become itchy, red and watery, making it a struggle to go about your normal day.

Even simple tasks such as driving to work, concentrating on a computer screen, or putting on make-up can be frustrating.

Unfortunately, irritated eyes are one of the major symptoms of hayfever and other airborne allergies. But remedies that work to soothe your eyes help you take back control of your condition. So, next time you get watery-eyed meeting your best friend’s new puppy it’s through tears of joy and not a result of your pet allergy.

Hayfever, allergies and your eyes

Your doctor would call hayfever eyes, ‘allergic conjunctivitis’. When the pollen, dust or pet hair you’re allergic to comes into contact with the eye it can inflame the part called the conjunctiva – the sensitive membrane covering the eyeball and inner surface of the eye. If you have hayfever or an allergy, your body will be much more sensitive to these particles and react more severely than other people.

But don’t panic, this form of conjunctivitis is different from viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, which is infectious and can be passed on from one person to another.

Allergic conjunctivitis can’t be passed on to others because other people cannot catch your allergy.

Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis explained

If your eyes are affected by hayfever or an allergy, the symptoms will be entirely personal to you.

While your friend may experience itchy peepers, you may major in the watery kind. This is because your body’s working to defend your eyes, triggering different reactions in different people.

Red, itchy eyes

Your body responds to pollen and other allergy-inducing substances (called allergens) by producing a chemical called histamine. This initiates an inflammatory response leading to the inflammation of the membrane of the eye including redness, itching and puffiness around the eye.

The allergic response is designed to protect us from foreign particles which our bodies detect as harmful. But it’s futile in the case of hayfever because pollen isn’t harmful.

Watery eyes

The influx of histamine sends a message to your eyes to wash out the irritant by producing excess tears, which leads to streaming, watery eyes.

Survival tips to reduce hayfever and allergy eyes

You don’t need to just get through allergy attacks in silence. Here are some ways to find hayfever and allergy relief.

Be prepared

Limiting your exposure to allergens doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you love. You may just need to tweak a few things to help you survive without the sniffles.

For hayfever, check the pollen count daily – generally, the higher the pollen count, the more intense your hayfever symptoms are likely to be. Keep an eye on the pollen count so you can be prepared with your Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops when your eyes start to water.

Try wrap-around sunglasses – large sunglasses which offer protection around the front and side of the eyes may help reduce hayfever and allergy eye symptoms because it’s more difficult for pollen and other allergens to reach the eye. Plus, you’ll look every inch the movie star!

Know your allergen – if you know which type of pollen is making your eyes water, you can check when it is at its peak. Use the Opticrom hayfever calendar to find out, so you can be ready for hayfever symptoms.

And did you know dust mite allergies tend to get worse in winter? This is because we tend to spend more time indoors, with the windows closed and central heating on. Try using ‘mite proof’ bedding and pillows to reduce exposure to mites.

Keep some tissues, eye drops and antihistamines at the ready for when you need some eye allergy relief.

Swap your contact lenses for glasses

When your eyes are itchy, contact lenses may heighten the feeling and rubbing your eyes can sometimes seem like the only way to relieve the gritty sensation.

But beware! Rubbing can aggravate hayfever eyes because allergens can settle on your contact lenses, intensifying the symptoms.

At times like these, it’s often best to revert to wearing your glasses to give your eyes a break and a barrier of protection against pollen, pet dander and dust.

It’s important to note that you will need to remove your contact lenses before using Opticrom eye drops. Check our FAQs to find out when you can wear your contact lenses again.

Clean your face and eyes before bedtime

If you have hayfever and ventured into the outside world, you will have probably picked up pollen on your skin and clothes. The same goes for those of you with an allergy who have risked being up close and personal with your trigger allergen.

To help ease symptoms, it’s a good idea to wash your face and cleanse your eyes, lashes and eyelids before you go to bed. This can help reduce uncomfortable eye allergy symptoms and help you get a good night’s sleep.

If you wear contact lenses, you should remove them before bed and wash them thoroughly to remove any allergens. Be sure to clean your glasses and sunglasses regularly too.

How Opticrom® eye drops work*

*This section refers to Opticrom Hayfever Eyedrops and Opticrom Allergy Eyedrops only.

When hayfever or an allergy strikes, your eyes can be the first to flare up. We know red, itchy and watery eyes can be extremely irritating, slowing you down and stopping you from being your best self.

Opticrom eye drops have been scientifically formulated to provide fast-acting, soothing relief for when the sensitive eye area is affected by hayfever or allergies.

What is Opticrom?

Opticrom creates eye drops to help those experiencing irritating eye symptoms which arise due to allergy and hayfever. With its 35-year heritage**, Opticrom is a trusted eye care expert, providing welcome relief to eyes and it is available nationwide.

The science behind Opticrom eye drops

Opticrom Hayfever and Allergy eye drops contain the active ingredient sodium cromoglicate. It works to inhibit the release of histamine – a chemical your body produces during an allergic reaction.

The sodium cromoglicate stabilises the mast cells responsible for releasing histamine, preventing them from producing the chemical.

**based on first registration of Opticrom Allergy 2% w/v Eye Drops in 1985.

Why does the body release histamine in an allergic reaction?

Sometimes your immune system overreacts to harmless substances that come into contact with your body (called allergens), releasing a chemical called histamine as part of the response to try to get rid of it. It’s this release of histamine which causes allergy symptoms.

Pollen is an allergen that causes hayfever, while dust mites (microscopic spider-like pests found in house dust) and pet dander (animal fur, skin and feathers) are the allergens which trigger dust mite allergies and pet allergies respectively.

If you’re sensitive to an allergen, cells in the lining of your nose and membrane of eyes release histamine alongside other chemicals and these are what cause your uncomfortable symptoms.

Opticrom’s active ingredient works fast

Although there is no cure for hayfever or allergy eyes, Opticrom eye drops provide fast-acting targeted relief, starting to work in just two minutes.

The active ingredient in Opticrom eye drops, sodium cromoglicate, inhibits the release of histamine and other chemicals produced by the body during an allergic reaction. Just one or two drops in each eye relieves and soothes irritated red, itchy and watery eyes.

Opticrom eye drops are easy to apply. Check with your pharmacist or GP to find out whether you can use them alongside other allergy and hayfever medication.

Opticrom eye drops are available nationwide

You can find Opticrom Allergy Eye Drops, Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops and Opticrom Allergy Single Dose Eye Drops in major pharmacies and supermarkets nationwide for convenient, on-the-go relief. Opticrom Allergy Eye Drops are also available online.

Hayfever calendar - be prepared for pollen

When winter is here, you can breathe easy in the knowledge that the hayfever season is over. But it means hayfever can hit you hard as soon as the weather warms up.

Don’t let hayfever leave you feeling hot and bothered. Not all pollen is created equal because different types are released at different times of the year. When you know what type of pollen causes your hayfever and the time of year to expect it, you can ready your remedies to help send hayfever packing.

Know your pollen peaks

Different types of pollen are usually released, or will peak, at specific months of the year. This means that – depending on what pollen causes your hayfever – there are times of year when your symptoms will be worse.

Many, if not most, people may even be allergic to more than one type of pollen, making the experience even more intense! By understanding your pollen peaks, you can better cope with your hayfever.

Not sure which pollen triggers your hayfever? Take our quiz and visit your GP for an allergy test (usually a prick test) to find out what your pollen trigger(s) are.

Hayfever triggers

In the UK, there are three major pollen types that cause hayfever:


allergy risk from
late March to mid-May


allergy risk from
mid-May to August


allergy risk from
June to September

Other triggers include moulds and fungal spores which are most prevalent mid-May to mid-October, but they can affect people with hayfever throughout the year.

Your allergy forecast

Find out what time of the year you might experience pollen symptoms, so you can be prepared.

What your pollen trigger means for you

Tree pollens

Pollen from trees, including elm, oak, cedar and pine, to name a few, can trigger hayfever symptoms.

But, if you’ve ever wondered why your hayfever attack has come out of the blue, it may be a result of birch tree pollen.

Affecting around 25 per cent of people with hayfever, birch pollen can be unpredictable. Birch pollen levels are high on warm, dry days in areas populated by birch trees, potentially triggering sudden hayfever symptoms with little or no warning!

Did you know...?

If you have birch pollen hayfever, it can mean you react to some fruits, vegetables or nuts, causing itching and swelling in the mouth. This is called oral allergy syndrome.

Grass pollens

These are the biggest irritants when it comes to causing hayfever havoc. Grass pollens affect 95 per cent of people with hayfever in the UK. Grasses are designed to be pollinated by the wind, so large quantities are released into the air year around, easily getting up your nose and in your eyes – bringing you to tears.

Most people with this type of hayfever generally experience symptoms when grass pollen reaches high or very high levels, usually in peak flowering times in June or July.

Did you know...?

The grass pollen season can change dependent on where you live in the UK; if you live in the south or midlands it may start at the end of May or beginning of June but in the north, where there is generally less pollen, you may not feel it until a little later.

Climate change and changing hayfever seasons

Pollution and climate change can significantly impact the prevalence and severity of hayfever symptoms and hayfever incidence rates are higher in urban areas than in rural ones. High levels of air pollution have been linked to a higher risk of developing allergic rhinitis symptoms and can even lead to more potent pollen which could result in an exaggerated allergic response.

Meanwhile, the increasing climate temperature is affecting our seasons. This could mean the timing of pollen seasons are striking earlier in the year, the pollen seasons could lengthen and they could become more severe due to possible changes in the potency of pollen.

That’s why understanding how to manage your pollen allergy is essential, so you don’t dread the spring and summer months.

Tips On Coping With Hayfever

Just because hayfever is very common, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. For some it can be a genuinely debilitating condition impacting work, quality of life and restricting their summer fun.

But with the right management, you can keep it under control and join in the fun – kicking FOMO (fear of missing out) firmly to the kerb.

Find out the extreme hayfever ‘hacks’ that people use to get some relief. We bust the myths from the facts.

Hayfever doesn’t have to hold you back! Try these tips to help you get on with your life.

Out and about

  • Wear sunglasses
    Oversized or wraparound sunglasses can help give your eyes a bit of extra protection from pollen particles. Instead of red, hayfever eyes, you’ll ooze glamour.
  • Reduce exposure to grass and trees when the pollen count is high
    It’s not healthy to stay indoors, particularly when the sun is shining. But when the pollen count is high, it’s best to avoid walking in grassy areas, especially longer grasses or woodland where pollen is present. Check the pollen count before you set off and tweak your route to put a bit more distance between you and the pollen.
  • Try over the counter remedies
    Antihistamine tablets are an effective way of keeping symptoms at bay. Check with your GP or pharmacist to understand which treatments suit you best and find out if you can use Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops in combination with antihistamine tablets.

    Corticosteroid nasal sprays, also known as steroid nasal sprays, are also available from the pharmacist. They can help to reduce inflammation in the lining of the nose and reduce hayfever symptoms.
  • On summer family staycations
    Camping is a wonderful way to encourage the family to enjoy the great outdoors, but it can be miserable for those with hayfever, especially children.

    It’s best to avoid camping in grassy fields, during your hayfever season. Try a trip to the beach instead, as the pollen count is often lower near the coast.
  • In the car
    You might think you’re safe in the car with the windows closed, but when the weather is warm you’ll reach for the air con where pollen can still reach you. Most cars have built-in pollen filters, so ensure they’re replaced regularly to keep them effective. Specially designed car air purifiers are also available for additional protection from pollen.

At home

  • De-pollen your home
    Dusting with a damp cloth and vacuuming your house regularly will help reduce pollen in your home.

    The best vacuum cleaners to help capture pollen in the air have a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. Ensure you enlist the help of your family, so you’re not stuck inside while they’re outside having all the fun!
  • Close windows and doors
    When pollen is at its highest (morning and evening), keep windows and doors shut to minimise the amount of pollen in your home.

    Early morning pollen can be particularly irritating, so be sure to keep windows closed overnight to help prevent a rude awakening.
  • Don’t forget the pollen on your pets
    Dogs love to go on ‘walkies’, while cats enjoy exploring the garden, but that means they’ll pick up pollen on their adventures.

    You may want to limit exposure by keeping pets out of the house in the warmer summer days, or bath them regularly if they live indoors.
  • Avoid high pollen activities
    Mowing the lawn is not a good idea if grass pollen triggers your hayfever, so ask a kind friend or family member who is hayfever-free to help you out.

At work

  • Use hayfever eye drops
    If you work in an office at a computer screen all day, streaming, itchy hayfever eyes can affect visibility and concentration.

    You might want to keep some allergy eye drops on you, so you can soothe irritated eyes. Opticrom® Hayfever Eye Drops start to work in two minutes, so you can quickly get back to powering through your work.
  • Clean your desk
    Pollen gets everywhere, including your desk, so wipe it down daily to help reduce any hayfever-induced sneezing attacks. Your colleagues will thank you!

In the evening

  • When you exercise
    Whether you prefer to exercise in the morning or after work in the evening, pollen is rife at these times of the day in spring and summer months, so it’s not a good idea to work out in the open.

    Try reverting to the gym, or take up a new class until your pollen season blows over.
  • Rethink your drink
    If you’re meeting up with friends, you might want to shun your usual glass of red or white wine. Studies have shown that wine, in particular, may make your hayfever symptoms worse.
  • Cut down on smoking
    It’s best to avoid cigarette smoke, which can make your symptoms worse.

Before bed

  • De-pollen you and your clothes
    When you’ve been outside, you’ll have picked up pollen on your skin and your clothes. Before you go to bed, it’s important to change out of your clothes and shower, so you can cleanse yourself of any pollen which will trigger symptoms.

    Be sure to focus on washing your hair and your face to help reduce any discomfort around the eyes.