Hay fever symptoms: What causes hay fever in the UK and why is pollen so bad this year?

Hay fever is usually at its peak between late March and September.

Monday, 13th June 2022, 2:04 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2022, 2:05 pm

Hay fever can be an irritating condition for people to manage throughout the spring, summer, and even early autumn months. Causing a range of symptoms from runny noses to watery eyes, it affects more than 10 million people in the UK.

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and why hay fever may be particularly bad this summer.

What are the top hay fever symptoms?

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According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever can include:

- Sneezing and coughing

- A runny or blocked nose

- Itchy, red or watery eyes

The NHS estimates that more than 10 million people have hayfever in England alone. Photo: Peopleimages / Getty Images / Canva Pro.

- Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears

- Loss of smell

- Pain around your temples and forehead or headaches

- Earache

The most common symptoms of hayfever include sneezing and an itchy or irritated throat. Photo: 4FR / Getty Images / Canva Pro.

- Feeling tired

Those with asthma may also experience a tight feeling in their chest, being short of breath, or wheezing and coughing. Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the hay fever. The symptoms can last for weeks or months, unlike the common cold which passes after a few weeks.

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What causes hay fever in the UK?

Hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by exposure to various types of pollen, including from grass, trees, and other plants. Pollen is a fine powdery substances made up of microscopic grains from the male part of a plant that travels through the air to germinate female plants.

Different pollen is more densely present at different times of year, as different plants pollinate differently. Here’s a look at the most common UK pollen types and which time of year they are most prevalent:

- Alder pollen, present from January to April, peaking in March

- Hazel pollen, present from January to April, peaking February to March

- Yew pollen, present from January to April, peaking in March

- Elm pollen, present from February to April, peaking in March

- Willow pollen, present from February to April, peaking in March

- Poplar pollen, present from March to May, peaking in March

- Birch pollen, present from March to June, peaking April to May

- Ash pollen, present from March to May, peaking in April

- Plane pollen, present from March to May, peaking in May

- Oak pollen, present from March to June, peaking in May

- Oil seed rape pollen, present from March to July, peaking May to June

- Pine pollen, present from April to July, peaking in May

- Grass pollen, present from May to September, peaking June to July

- Lime pollen, present from June to July, peaking in June

- Nettle pollen, present from May to September, peaking in June

- Dock pollen, present from May to August, peaking in June

- Mugwort pollen, present from June to September, peaking July to August

Why is pollen so bad this year?

Pollen counts are typically higher in the morning, so if you're out and about in the morning, you might feel the effects of hay fever worse. However warmer weather in the winter means a longer growing period for plants, which produces a higher concentration of pollen. This could mean that the trend of warmer temperatures in the UK and around the globe might lead to worse hay fever symptoms this year and the years to follow.

To stay on top of the pollen count and predict how bad your hay fever may be, check the Met Office’s pollen forecast to see how dense the pollen clouds are in your area.