Hay fever symptoms? Jog on, pollen!

2 mins

Hay fever symptoms. It’s up there with queue jumpers and sales callers on your most irritating list. But you can show your hay fever symptoms who’s boss. We’re going to help you know manage the symptoms and know the signs of hay fever. So you can put pollen in its place.

Also known as ‘seasonal rhinitis’ (catchy, we know), it’s basically irritation or inflammation of the nose. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. And once that pesky powder gets inside you, it triggers a variety of annoying – and sometimes painful - symptoms. These can vary in adults depending on who you are, the season and the type of pollen that sets you off. Your hay fever symptoms can last for weeks or months – however long you’re exposed to the pollen that’s causing your allergic reaction.

In this article we’re going to cover:

  • Cold or hay fever?
  • What are the main hay fever symptoms?
  • Hay fever symptoms by severity
  • Mild hay fever symptoms
  • Severe hay fever symptoms
  • Long-term hay fever symptoms

Is it a cold or hay fever?

Many hay fever symptoms overlap with those you get with a cold, so it can be hard to say which you’ve got. There are a few key things you can look out for.

A cold will kick in one to three days after you come into contact with the virus, and will normally last for up to a week. Hay fever starts straight after you’re exposed to pollen and continues causing havoc til you’re no longer around the allergens.

You can use our Pollen Pal to check the pollen levels where you are, and check out our handy table below.

Symptoms Hay Fever Cold
Runny nose Thin, watery discharge. Thicker discharge can be yellow.
Fever No fever. Low grade fever.
Aches Head and earache. Body aches.


What are the main hay fever symptoms?

Symptoms of hay fever vary from person to person but, if you do suffer, you’ll usually be struck with one or more of the same key symptoms each hay fever season. A season that is getting longer, unfortunately, due to climate change.

The main signs and symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Sneezing. Whatever your sneeze style – a blaster or a squeaker – it can be a sign pollen is irritating your nose.
  • Coughing. Not to make you heave, but you could be coughing due to mucus and snot that hasn’t escaped through your nose is dripping down your throat. Nice.
  • Snotty or blocked nose. You need to become a snot scientist here. Nasal discharge from hay fever tends to be clearer and thinner. Go on, take a look…
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes. The most annoying symptom! Your eyes may stream to try and wash out that pollen. They can even become itchy, sticky and red as your immune system reacts to the pollen.
  • Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears. Similar to itchy eyes, your body’s immune system is kicking in and reacting to the pollen.
  • Loss of smell. If food tastes different or things smell weird (and it’s not your partner’s turn to cook), then it could be a sign of hay fever.
  • Pain around your temples and forehead. Allergens can create pockets of pain around your sinuses – that area behind your cheekbones and forehead.
  • Headache. Sinus pain from hay fever can also trigger headaches.
  • Earache. The lining of the tubes in your ear can inflame when it reacts with pollen.
  • Tiredness. If this long list of symptoms isn’t making you want to escape to your bed, then your immune system going into overdrive certainly will.

Many of these symptoms can also be related to other illnesses, reactions or even Covid. If you’re worried, your symptoms have come on suddenly and unexpectedly, or they’ve gotten much worse, chat to your GP.

Mild hay fever symptoms

While some of us may experience severe hay fever symptoms when the pollen count is high, others may have more mild reactions to pollen. General tiredness is a fairly mild effect of hay fever – normally a side effect from lack of sleep as you cough and sneeze your way through the night.

Sneezing, coughing and a snotty nose are other common symptoms. Earaches and headaches are rarer, but they can obviously vary in how much pain they cause you.

Severe hay fever symptoms

Itchy eyes, nose, throat and/or mouth are some of the most severe hay fever symptoms you can suffer. Not only will they leave you feeling cranky, but they can seriously disrupt your daily life, especially if your vision is impaired.

While earache is less common, it can develop and become severe. As the passages around your nose and throat swell due to an allergic reaction, it can lead to blockages in your ear, difficulty hearing and a lot of pain.

Certain irritants can also make your symptoms of hay fever worse. Your inflamed nose will be more sensitive, and exposure to the following will add to your woes:

  • Wood and tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution and irritating fumes
  • Wind
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Strong odours
  • Changes in temperature and humidity

Long-term hay fever symptoms

If you’re lucky, bad hay fever symptoms might only bother you for a few days. But long-term effects can go on for weeks and even months if left untreated. Symptoms can include:

  • Clogged ears
  • Sore throat
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Puffiness or dark circles under your eyes

Even if these start out as mild symptoms, the longer they go on the worse impact they can have on other areas of your health. If you have any long-term hay fever symptoms, this means you can also experience:

  • Poor sleep quality, leading to ongoing tiredness
  • An increase in asthma symptoms
  • Lack of energy and productivity
  • Ear infections (especially for kids)
  • Eye infections and conjunctivitis
  • Sinus inflammation and constant congestion that can develop into sinusitis

Short or long-term, manage whatever symptoms hay fever throws at you with our top hay fever hacks.


Sources / Research:

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