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What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever is an allergic conjunctivitis, often associated with rhinitis (runny nose) and it affects around 13 million people in the UK. Hay fever occurs in response to plant pollens in Spring and early Summer and can badly affect your eyes and daily life.  It develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to small particles in the environment, such as fine tree and grass pollens.

People suffering from hay fever may display similar symptoms to having a cold, with runny eyes and nose, yet feeling generally well and not carrying a virus. Hay fever can significantly reduce your quality of life when suffering during the months of late March to September, where tree and grass pollen counts are at their highest levels.

Hay fever affects children and adults. If untreated it can gradually cause secondary effects on the eyelids and eye surface, and hence the vision.

Hay Fever Symptoms:

•    Itchy, gritty, red, watery eyes with puffy eyelids with blurred vision
•    Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
•    Itchy mouth or skin
•    General fatigue due to poor sleep as a result of nasal obstruction.

How to reduce itchy, gritty, red, watery eyes?

When asked about the best way to mitigate hay fever symptoms in those who suffer from itchy, gritty, red and watery eyes, our consultant ophthalmologist and allergy expert, Mr Sajjad Ahmad advises:

¨Prevention is the key, with an air purifier (HEPA FILTER FOR ALLERGENS) in your home, and antihistamine tablets and/or drops. You may require a short course of steroid drops if your hay fever becomes, and some patients may require even stronger eye drops that you cannot get over the counter. I assess and successfully treat many patients with a combination of prescription eye drops and advice, especially at this time of the year when the parks are in full bloom ¨.

Most people don’t realise that if they start taking their eye drops before their symptoms show, that they have a much better chance of reducing the severity of their symptoms over the following months. Most of the ¨over the counter¨ medicines are designed for mild allergies. For moderate to severe allergy problems over the counter medicines are not going to be enough and you should see your Ophthalmologist for further advice and treatment with the appropriate prescription eye drops.

What can I do to reduce my eye irritation?


It is hard not to touch your itchy, gritty eyes, but if you do so, it will only make things worse. Rubbing your eyes causes mast cells to release more of those itch-causing chemicals, the histamines. It is better to clean the eyelids and remove pollen debris and dust, and even put in lubricant tear drops without preservatives as a temporary relief and substitute if you do not have the correct anti hay fever drops or whilst waiting to get specialist advice. An at home or in the office air purifier will also reduce pollen in the atmosphere. Drive with the windows closed not open, particularly when in the countryside or near trees.

Some things you can do:

•    If you wear contact lenses, take them out.
•    Skip the eye makeup, and apply cold compresses to your eyes.
•    Use preservative-free artificial tear drops (lubricating) to wash pollen allergens out of your eyes.
•    Wash your hands often so that you don’t deposit fine pollens onto your eyelids and in your eyes.
•    Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
•    When pollen counts are high, stay indoors and avoid going into parks, fields or walking along tree-lined roads.

Some people suffer the symptoms of hay fever all year round due to indoor exposure to pet dander, dust mites, and mould.  It is advised that pets are kept out of the bedroom, regular vacuuming is done, and dealing with mould promptly to help mitigate the allergy symptoms. Consider an air purifier. Read more on Air Purifiers in the home to help filter out allergens including pollens, IDEAL HOME May 2021 https://www.idealhome.co.uk/buying-guide-reviews/best-air-purifiers-242211

If you have persistent hay fever symptoms, you are advised to see an ophthalmic specialist skilled in ocular allergy such as Mr Sajjad Ahmad. He is highly recommended by patients for the assessment and management of their severe hay fever.

Mr Sajjad Ahmad

Mr Sajjad Ahmad

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Cornea & External Eye Diseases, Cataract, Keratoconus & Refractive Surgery Specialist


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