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The three different types of hay fever as pollen bomb to hit UK

Do you know which type of hay fever you are suffering from? [Photo: Getty]
Do you know which type of hay fever you are suffering from? (Getty)

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common allergic reaction. And with a pollen bomb due to hit the UK this weekend, it's coming to get us in full force.

The condition is only on the rise, with up to to 37% developing symptoms for the first time in the last five years, according to Allergy UK, meaning you might want to have the tissues at the ready.

Hay fever is characterised by symptoms including:

  • itchy eyes and throat

  • sneezing or a blocked nose

  • watery red eyes

  • headaches

  • shortness of breath

  • tiredness

  • mucus in the back of the throat

While we often talk about hay fever in general terms, there are actually three different types.

[Poll source: Getty Images]

Different types of hay fever

According to Allergy UK, there are three main types of hay fever from three different types of pollen:

  • grass

  • ragweed

  • tree (sometimes referred to separately as 'oak' and 'birch' pollens)

You may be affected by one or more of these at different points during the year.

"While some people with hay fever react to one type of pollen during the ‘season’, and then feel better later in the year, it is also possible to be affected by more than one type of pollen or airborne allergen, leading to many months of rhinitis," the charity states.

Understanding which type of hay fever you have (i.e. which pollen is causing it) can help you prevent and treat your condition.

Young woman blowing her nose while being in the nature
If you suffer from hay fever take medication preventatively to ease symptoms. (Getty)

Pollens affect hay fever sufferers at different times

The Met Office outlines which hits when:

  • Tree pollen occurs first, typically from late March to mid-May

  • Grass (which actually has two peaks) lasts from mid-May until July

  • Weed pollen [typically] covers the end of June to September

Tree pollen affects around 25% of people, while most people are allergic to grass pollen. Depending on where you live in the UK, hay fever season will start at different times.

"For example, there’s a later start and shorter season in the north of the UK, where generally there is less pollen," the Met Office website reads. "Urban areas have lower counts than the countryside, and places inland have higher counts than around the coast."

The pollen of the grass is beautiful white in nature.
Hay fever is usually worse when the pollen count is at its highest. (Getty)

How to avoid pollen

  • check pollen counts before you leave the house – avoid going out if they are high

  • shower and change clothes when you get indoors

  • avoid drying clothes outside

  • keep windows closed, particularly in early morning and evenings when pollen counts are high

  • wipe pets’ coats with a damp microfibre cloth when they come inside

How to treat hay fever

Early prevention is best, according to Allergy UK’s nurse advisor Holly Shaw – so start taking medication preventatively if you think you are susceptible to hay fever.

"If people start to become symptomatic they should start taking their medications early so they will be most effective when the pollen levels really peak," she previously told Yahoo Life UK.

The below medicines are usually recommended, but ask your pharmacist to decide which is best for you.

  • antihistamines to block the allergic reaction

  • medication to reduce inflammation, e.g. nasal steroids (these must be prescribed by a doctor)

  • corticosteroid tablets to relieve severe symptoms (also prescribed by a doctor)

Help with hay fever

For information and support, you can contact:

  • Your GP

  • Allergy UK's helpline on 01322 619898 or info@allergyuk.org

Hay fever: Read more

Watch: Five natural ways to help treat hay fever

This article was originally published in April 2022 and has been updated.