Hay Fever Allergies to Pollen

Hay Fever: What are your treatment options?

We talk about treatments for hay fever. These include anti-histamines including fexofenadine, nasal sprays and eye drops.

Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK experience the unpleasant symptoms of hay fever such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and an itchy mouth. These are most commonly present during the summer months…

These symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to the high levels of tree or grass pollen at this time of year. Allergy, or type 1 hypersensitivity, is when the body’s immune system reacts to a natural substance called an allergen (e.g. pollen) in an unusual way.

Luckily, there is a whole array of treatments available to help keep you sneeze and itch free. Below are some common allergy medications available.

Antihistamines for hay fever

These are the mainstay for the treatment of mild allergy symptoms. They are often used to battle hay fever, hives, conjunctivitis and reactions to insect bites or stings. You can also use them with motion sickness or trouble sleeping (insomnia).

Antihistamines work by stopping a substance called histamine from having an effect in your body. Histamine is released by the immune system in response to allergens and it is the main culprit in causing the symptoms you experience.

There are many forms in which antihistamines can be taken including tablets, capsules, liquids, syrups, creams, lotions, gels, eye drops and nasal sprays.  Here are some common types to consider:

Sedating anti-histamines

These were the first type of antihistamines developed. As the title suggests, it can make you feel sleepy. Examples include chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine and promethazine.

They can be bought over the counter in a pharmacist or supermarket and are commonly sold in a pill or syrup form. Most people avoid these antihistamines initially because of the side-effect of sleepiness but they may be beneficial if your symptoms are disturbing your natural sleep pattern.

Non-sedating oral anti-histamines

These are newer types of antihistamines and have a much lower chance of making you feel sleepy. Examples include cetirizine and loratadine, which can be bought as a pill to be taken once a day, and acrivastine, which is commonly sold as a capsule to take up to 3 times a day when you feel symptoms. These can all be bought over the counter, but you are likely to find it cheaper online including at Chemist.net. 


Fexofenadine is a prescription-only non-sedating antihistamine available from The Doctor Service. You can only get it if it is prescribed by a doctor. This antihistamine has been consistently shown in studies to be better than others and is worth trying if you are not getting good relief from the others.

Fexofenadine is well tolerated with minimal side effects which is also why it is popular. Although the risk is low, there is still a potential risk of feeling tired, dizzy or sick, which is why you can’t buy it over the counter in the UK. It you are still struggling to control the symptoms with fexofenadine then you should consider seeing a health professional to consider further management. We recommend at that stage that you are using a combination of treatments. You should consider how you can reduce contributory factors that are worsening your symptoms.

Antihistamine Eye-drops

Cromoglicate and Olopatadine are examples of antihistamine eye drops. They work by stopping the release of histamine in the eyes to stop them from feeling itchy. Both can be bought over the counter as a liquid in a small squeezy bottle.

Steroid Nasal sprays

These are medications you spray into your nose that reduce inflammation, which is caused by allergy. This stops your nose from running and can be really effective in dealing with allergic rhinitis.

Beconase and Flixonase are the names of two sprays which can be bought over the counter but may also be prescribed by a doctor if they think it will help with an allergy.

Always follow the doctor’s advice on how to take them but normally you would use 1 or 2 sprays in each nostril twice a day. It is worth noting that they may take a few days to work properly so you will not get instant nasal relief.

The Best Combination

The best treatments for hay fever will vary from person to person so it is about finding what works best for you. For most people you can nasal sprays, tablets and eye drops together. You can order all non-prescription items from Chemist.net. 

Before taking any medication you should read the leaflet that comes with it to see how to take it and how much to take. Some medicines may not be suitable for certain groups of people such as pregnant women, young children or people with longstanding conditions. It is always best to get further advice if you’re unsure.

Edited by Dr Kiran Sodha & The Doctor Service at TheDoctorService.co.uk.
Read more blogs about hay fever here. 

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