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Allergy to pollens

What are pollens?

Pollens are produced from trees, grasses, weeds, nettles and flowers and they travel in the air to fertilise other plants. They increase in the spring and summer and cause allergy symptoms.

How do I know what I am allergic to?

You can often tell which plant is causing your symptoms by thinking about which month your symptoms are worse in. Mould is included as there is an overlap within the year.

Blood tests and skin prick tests can also be used to diagnose pollen allergy.

Month Allergen
February Moulds, Trees
March Trees
April Trees
May Grass, Nettles, Flowers
June Grass, Nettles, Flowers
July Grass, Nettles, Flowers, Weeds, Moulds
August Weeds, Moulds
September Weeds, Moulds

What symptoms do they cause?

There are many symptoms caused by pollens but they usually fall into four groups:

  • Asthma – acute wheeze, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Eczema – irritation of the skin and sometimes they will cause hives (nettle rash) on the skin that has been in contact with the pollen.
  • Rhinitis – irritation in the nose with nasal blockage, sneezing, a runny nose and an itchy nose (hayfever).
  • Conjunctivitis – irritation in the eye with eye itch, eye redness and eye swelling (hayfever).

How can I avoid pollens?

It is very difficult to avoid all pollens, however there are some simple things to do in order to reduce symptoms.

  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollens going in your eyes.
  • Put a small amount of Vaseline underneath your nostrils to trap the pollen and then you won’t breathe it in.
  • Keep the windows closed on high pollen count days or if someone is mowing the lawn.
  • Having a pollen allergy is a great excuse not to mow the lawn!
  • Avoid drying clothes and bed linen outside on high pollen count days.
  • Pollens become trapped in hair and hence ideally washing your hair before bed may reduce night time symptoms. As this can be difficult, changing your pillow case regularly is advised.
  • Make sure you wash your face before bed or use a nasal douche in the daytime to help reduce symptoms.

What medicine should I take?


Non sedative antihistamines (cetirizine, loratadine, desloratadine, fexofenadine) should be taken daily and if you know that you are a regular hay fever sufferer then starting them a few weeks before the pollen season has advantages.

Antihistamines tend to suit people differently and so if one doesn’t work try a different one. Sedative antihistamines (chlorpheniramine) are not recommended for regular use.

Steroid nasal sprays

If your main symptoms are in the nose then steroid nasal sprays work better than antihistamines alone.

If you have asthma then it is really important to control any inflammation in your nose as well. Most of these have to be prescribed by your GP.

Eye drops

If you have itchy eyes then using eye drops are helpful. Again, you are better starting these before symptoms start as they may sting if the eyes are already sore.

Sodium cromoglycate eye drops can be bought from a pharmacy but also prescribed by your GP.


If you know your asthma is triggered by pollens then make sure you have started your regular inhalers at least 4 weeks before the pollen season has started (if you don’t need them in the winter) and have a reliever available.


This is a different type of medicine that your GP can prescribe if you still have symptoms despite taking all of the above.

These medicines all work better if started a couple of weeks before the season of the pollen that gives you symptoms.

If despite, all of the above medication, you still have symptoms then it may be appropriate to be seen by an allergy specialist, if you haven’t already had an appointment. Discuss this with your GP.

Further help and contact information

  • Allergy nurses: 0114 226 7872
  • Dermatology nurses: 0114 271 7580
  • Respiratory nurses: 0114 271 7414
  • Asthma UK: 01322 619898 or visit www.asthma.org.uk
  • The Anaphylaxis Campaign: 01252 542029 or visit www.anaphylaxis.org.uk
  • The British Allergy Foundation: 020 8303 8525 or visit www.allergyuk.org


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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: ALG6

Resource Type: Article


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