What's the link between asthma and hay fever?

Allergies and asthma often coincide. This is known as allergic, atopic or seasonal asthma, meaning your asthma is triggered by allergens such as dust, pet dander and pollen.
Allergic asthma is one of the most common types of asthma in the UK, with around 80% of people with allergic asthma having a related condition like hay fever, eczema or food allergies.
In this guide we’ll delve further into what asthma and hay fever are, how they’re related, and what you can do to effectively manage your asthma this hay fever season.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a very common respiratory condition that causes some breathing difficulties, like wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing. It’s a chronic condition that currently has no cure, however, there are treatments available to help you manage your symptoms.
There are different types of asthma. This ranges from occupational asthma, non-allergic asthma, ‘exercise induced’ asthma, difficult asthma, severe asthma, ‘brittle’ asthma, adult onset asthma and childhood asthma.
In this guide we’ll be focusing on allergic or seasonal asthma, or more specifically, asthma caused by hay fever. It’s important to note that seasonal asthma doesn’t just occur during pollen season; it can affect people during the autumn and winter months when the temperature drops, too.
Asthma can affect people of all ages, but it’s often diagnosed in childhood. Nevertheless, some unlucky people can be diagnosed with asthma for the first time in adulthood. 
Woman struggling with hay fever

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is one of the most common allergies in the UK, and it simply refers to an allergy to pollen. Pollen particles swarm the air all year round, but it typically worsens when it’s warm, humid and windy between the months of March and September. 
You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • Loss of smell
  • Pain in your forehead and temples
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Fatigue  

Unfortunately, just like there’s no cure for asthma, there’s no cure for hay fever, either. Don’t worry! Your symptoms can be managed.

How does hay fever trigger asthma?

When asthma hits, it causes your airways to inflame and swell, leaving you breathless and your chest tight. But when you throw hay fever into the mix, your airways become increasingly inflamed, causing more severe symptoms.
If you’ve been diagnosed with allergic asthma, your GP will likely prescribe you with a preventer inhaler and a reliever inhaler to prevent and ease your symptoms when they arise. 
Although asthma is a life-long, incurable condition, many people find themselves symptom-free when hay fever season passes. It’s important that you make note of your asthma triggers and avoid them as much as possible.

How to reduce the risk of hay fever causing an asthma attack

The combination of hay fever and asthma puts you at a higher risk of having an asthma attack, which can be life-threatening if not treated. To avoid this, ensure you take both your preventer and reliever inhaler as instructed by your GP. Effectively managing your asthma can lessen the severity of your symptoms during hay fever season.
It’s also useful to take hay fever remedies, like antihistamines, each day before your allergies strike. There are two types of antihistamines, drowsy and non-drowsy, and the purpose of these antihistamines is to stop an allergic reaction, such as hay fever, from happening. They work by stopping any excess production of the chemical histamine in the immune system, the chemical that triggers an allergic reaction. 
Woman taking inhaler
Asthma and hay fever can be uncomfortable to deal with on their own, but when the two join forces, they can make your spring and summer time miserable. These two respiratory villains may pressure you to stay indoors to avoid the consequences, but you shouldn’t allow asthma and hay fever to rule you.
If you effectively manage your asthma and hay fever symptoms before they start their trouble, you’ll be breathing easy in no time. If you need any more information about allergic asthma or hay fever, visit the NHS or Asthma UK 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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