5 common hay fever myths that need busting

5 common hay fever myths that need busting

Woman sneezing  

Everyone’s heard of hay fever, and many of us probably experience its wrath every year. Battling through watery eyes, constant sneezing and a bothersome blocked nose.

Hay fever is one of the most common allergies in the UK, but there are many misconceptions circulating about its cause, when it arrives, and whether you can ever get rid of it.

In this guide we’ll put some of the most common hay fever myths to bed so you can get to know this seasonal enemy a little bit better.


Hay fever myths


How much do you really know about hay fever? Let’s put your knowledge to the test by separating the lies from the truths and busting some of the most common hay fever myths.


1. Hay fever is caused by hay


False! Hay fever refers to an allergy to pollen, and there are many different types. There’s tree, grass and plantain pollen that arrive and depart at various points throughout the year.

Don’t take hay fever’s namesake too seriously. The belief that hay was the cause of hay fever was taken as fact back in the 19th century, with many people assuming freshly cut hay was causing this influx of aggravating allergies.

However, this was later disproved by a scientist who sneezed when presented with a bouquet of bluegrass - thus, the connection to pollen was made.


2. You’ll grow out of hay fever


This isn’t exactly false and it isn’t exactly true, either. Our verdict is you’d have to be quite lucky for your hay fever to be sent into remission.

Some people may find that their hay fever symptoms become less severe as they get older, while 10-20% of people reported that their symptoms had disappeared completely

It can occur in reverse, too. Certain people who have never experienced a negative reaction to pollen may suddenly develop hay fever symptoms for the first time. Now that’s unlucky!


3. You can only get hay fever when it’s warm and sunny


While it’s true that hay fever will hit people the hardest during the months of March to September when the weather is typically warmer and sunnier, that isn’t to say that you can’t get hay fever during the autumn and winter months when the weather is bleak and rainy.

It all depends on how sensitive your allergy is and the type of pollen you’re allergic to. The first type of pollen to make an appearance is tree pollen, which affects around 25% of people here in the UK. It arrives as early as January, so you might even mistake hay fever for the common cold!

  Bee landing on flower  

4. All antihistamines make you drowsy


Antihistamines have a reputation for drowsiness, and while some can help you drift off, this doesn’t apply to all of them. There are two types of antihistamines, drowsy and non-drowsy.

Drowsy antihistamines are known as first-generation antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine, and promethazine. The non-drowsy antihistamines, which include cetirizine, loratadine, and fexofenadine, are known as second-generation antihistamines.

The drowsy kind have their uses (just don’t take them while you’re driving, using machinery or if you’re on the clock!) If hay fever strikes at bedtime, you can take one to manage your symptoms and get a restful sleep.


5. When it rains, you can’t get hay fever


Yes, when the rain is light to moderate it can reduce the pollen count. But don’t celebrate too quickly, because when it’s raining heavily, it may actually have the opposite effect. A study has shown that hay fever symptoms worsened after heavy rain, wind and storms.

When the rainfall is severe, it whips more pollen into the air. Windy conditions can have the same effect, too, so don’t skip your antihistamine just because the weather is bad!


What you can do to manage hay fever


The trick to effectively managing your hay fever symptoms is by being prepared. Stock up on allergy treatments, whether it’s tablets or capsules, syrups, sprays or eye drops, here you’ll find a wide variety of hay fever treatments to suit all of the family.

The pollen count can change daily. Check the pollen count each day or read our helpful guide to discover when hay fever season peaks, so you can organise your outdoor activity to avoid those stuffy sinuses.

When the pollen count is high, try to keep your doors and windows closed as much as possible. Shower and change your clothes after you’ve been outdoors to wash away the pollen, too. 

  Hand holding antihistamine  

Don’t let false information circulate like pollen - learn the facts.

We hope this guide has cleared up some of those maddening myths about hay fever, but if you need more information about hay fever or antihistamines, visit the NHS website.

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 28 March 2023
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