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Hayfever explained

The medical term for hayfever is seasonal allergic rhinitis. In other words, it’s an allergic condition that varies in prevalence, depending on the time of year. It develops when the body’s immune system reacts to pollen as if it were something harmful, like an infection.

Produced by plants, including grass, trees and weeds, pollen is harmless to most people, but for those with hayfever, contact with pollen triggers the body to release a type of antibody to attack the allergen. The immune system then releases chemicals, including histamine, to prevent the spread of what it thinks is an infection.

The symptoms and the severity of hayfever can vary widely from person to person, and also depend on the type of pollen a person is allergic to. Common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose 
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes, ears, nose or mouth.

Less common symptoms include loss of smell, facial pain, headaches, earache, tiredness and fatigue.

Hayfever, a cold or Covid-19?

Many hayfever sufferers can be confused about whether they have hayfever, a cold, or, in the current health climate, Covid-19. When it comes to the common cold, symptoms will usually clear up within two weeks, but hayfever symptoms will persist for longer. Unlike Covid-19, hayfever does not cause a high temperature and most people with hayfever do not feel generally unwell.

Symptoms of Covid-19 include a high temperature and a new and continuous cough, characterised by coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If people show either of these signs, they should stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days, and the rest of their household for 14 days, as a precaution.

NHS and Government guidance should be regularly referred to, in case of any changes.