Hay fever is a pian for people throughout the UK every single year with high pollen counts causing watery eyes, runny noses and itchy throats.

With the ongoing pandemic it could be easy to mistake the symptoms of Covid-19 for hay fever with one in five Brits suffering from hay fever every year. 

But when does hay fever usually start, what are the types of pollen and how can symptoms be treated?

Here’s what you need to know.

When does hay fever season start?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen and usually occurs when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat. Hay fever season typically starts at the end of March until the end of September, with various pollen stirring allergies at different times throughout the summer.

Tree pollen occurs first, typically from late March to mid-May. Grass pollen then usually lasts from mid-May until July, with weed pollen covering the end of June to September.

However, the Met Office explains that depending on where you live in the UK, the 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,” said the Met Office.

Urban areas tend to have lower counts than the countryside, and places inland have higher counts than around the coast.

Grass pollen also has two peaks, with the first usually starting in the first two weeks of June and then the second, lower peak occurring in the first two weeks of July, after which things tail off slowly.

These peaks may be masked by how wet, dry, warm or cold it is, and the timing of the peaks also depends on the weather conditions during spring and early summer.

Pollen is also dependent on how “hardy different species are and how well they cope with a mixture of different types in one region,” added the Met Office.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever include:

  • sneezing and coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, red or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • loss of smell
  • pain around your temples and forehead
  • headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

If you have asthma, you might also:

  • have a tight feeling in your chest
  • be short of breath
  • wheeze and cough

How can I treat my hay fever symptoms?

Although there’s no cure or prevention for hay fever, you can do things to ease your symptoms when the pollen count is high.

The NHS suggests the following:

  • put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
  • stay indoors whenever possible
  • keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter

You can also speak to your pharmacist if you’re suffering with hay fever symptoms. They can give advice and suggest the best treatments to help with your symptoms, such as antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays.

Your GP may also prescribe you a steroid treatment, sthen your GP may refer you for immunotherapy.

There are also things you can avoid doing to prevent making hay fever symptoms worse including:

  • not cutting grass or walking on grass
  • not spending too much time outside
  • not keeping fresh flowers in the house
  • not smoking or being around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
  • not drying clothes outside – they can catch pollen
  • not letting pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors

How to spot the difference between Covid and hay fever

One in five Brits suffer from hay fever and but experts warn that during the ongoing pandemic some people could mistake usual signs of hay fever with coronavirus.

Although a cough will be common in both, there is a difference you should be aware of.

If you have a hay fever your cough will be tickly and dry and will usually occur when you are outside and exposed to allergens.

If your cough is more persistent it could be a sign of Covid-19.

GP Dr Gordon Sinclair told The Sun that it is important for people to understand the difference between the two.

He said: "We don’t want people to get unduly anxious about their hay fever. However, we also want to make sure that they don’t go out and about, assuming they have their usual allergies, when they may actually have coronavirus and should stay at home.

"While the symptoms of coronavirus and hay fever can overlap, people with hay fever don’t experience a high temperature and most won’t feel unwell.

“Hay fever and allergy symptoms tend to be milder, for example, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing.”

He added: "Symptoms may vary over the course of the day or depending on the weather, as the pollen count changes.

"They can also usually be controlled through antihistamines or nasal sprays."