Hay fever season comes around every year in the spring, and for those who struggle with pollen allergies it can be an uncomfortable time.
Symptoms can vary from a runny nose to watering eyes and an itchy throat, some of which can be treated with over-the-counter medication.
However, there are some less common symptoms caused by hay fever that might surprise you - including those that could be mistaken for Covid symptoms.
So what are the lesser known signs to look out for?
Lesser known symptoms of hay fever
An estimated 10 million people in England alone have hay fever, making it one of the most common allergies.
Although common symptoms of the condition may include watery eyes and an itchy throat, Phil Day, Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, explains that hay fever symptoms can also include the loss of smell, pain around your temples and forehead, earache and feeling tired, which are symptoms similar to a common cold.
Mr Day says although these “may not initially be seen as hay fever symptoms”, they will “last for weeks or months due to the presence of pollen,” unlike a cold that usually lasts one to two weeks.
And due to the ongoing pandemic, Mr Day warns that if you experience symptoms such as the loss of smell or tiredness, you should get a covid test and self isolate until you get a negative result, even if you suspect it’s just hay fever.
Hay fever can also cause coughing, and if you have asthma - which also makes you more likely to develop hay fever - you might also have a tight feeling in your chest, be short of breath and suffer with a wheeze, which are all symptoms of Covid.
Symptoms of Covid can also include a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
If you have any of the symptoms of Covid and suspect you may have the virus, you should get a PCR Covid-19 test. You and anyone you live with should also stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
What’s the best way to prevent hay fever?
Although there’s no cure or prevention for hay fever, you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high.
The NHS suggests the following:
- put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
- wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
- shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
- stay indoors whenever possible
- keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
- buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
What treatments are there for hay fever?
You can also speak to your pharmacist if you’re suffering with hay fever symptoms.
They can give advice and suggest the best treatments to help with your symptoms, such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.
Mr Day says: “Although there is no cure for hay fever, easing the symptoms can be as straightforward as an over-the-counter antihistamine and your pharmacist will be able to advise on the best course for you.”
If you suffer badly from hay fever then your GP might prescribe you a steroid treatment, such as a steroid nasal spray.
However, if steroids and other hay fever treatments - such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays - do not work, your GP may then refer you for immunotherapy on the NHS.
This means you will be given small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity to pollen.
However, immunotherapy is a specialist service that may not be available everywhere, and may depend on where you live.
Some private clinics also offer the Kenalog corticosteroid injection, a jab with anti-inflammatory properties, and differs from the NHS immunotherapy injection.