Nearly half of all hayfever sufferers are more irritable while they are suffering from hayfever symptoms and that impacts their relationships, according to a new survey published today.[1]  The survey suggests that up to 2 million people with hayfever[2] feel less affectionate in relationships and up to 600,000 people with hayfever have had an argument due to their hayfever symptoms. Even potential new relationships are at risk, with 6% having cancelled a date or prior arrangement because of their symptoms and 75% feeling self conscious about their appearance.(*)

The findings, announced today, arose from a survey of 787 people with hayfever conducted by YouGov on behalf of Schering-Plough last summer. Additional relationship stresses listed by respondents included keeping partners awake with snoring, difficulty kissing, lower sex drive, and not being able to wear make-up.[1]

To help minimize the effect hayfever is having on their relationships, sufferers' main strategy should be to take care of themselves by avoiding trigger situations and making sure they get the most effective medication, commented Susan Quilliam, relationship psychologist, but another vital strategy is to keep their emotions in perspective when it comes to relationships. Hard though it is, remembering that irritability is a symptom of hayfever not a sign of relationship problems will keep them on an even keel. So bite back snappy comments, let partners off the hook with comments such as "it's not you, it's the hayfever" - and offset any tension with romantic cards, presents and little acts of kindness.

It is estimated that 12 million people in the UK suffer from hayfever every year.[2] Symptoms of hayfever, which include blocked nose, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and poor smell, can affect people 24 hours a day. The findings reported above suggest that many people are suffering unduly from these symptoms, especially given the wealth of effective treatments available. However, the YouGov survey did uncover that many people may not be making the most of the options available to them. Only 1 in 5 respondents had visited their GP for their hayfever medication, despite some medications, which may suit them better, only being available on prescription.[1] In addition, 70% of people with hayfever do not take medication before the start of the hayfever season, despite the fact that some treatments, such as nasal steroids, work best if taken preventatively.[1,3]

"The figure of 80% of people not visiting their GP for their hayfever medication surprised me, particularly if their symptoms are not well-controlled. Evidence around preventative treatment of hayfever is compelling and if people can remember to start before the hayfever season begins it will make a big difference to their symptoms control," commented Dr Donal Collins, GPwSP in ENT based in Fareham, Hampshire.

The most troublesome hayfever symptom is nasal congestion, with 85% of people with hayfever suffering from it.[4] This symptom in particular can have a major impact on the patient's quality of life, notably, emotional function, productivity and the ability to perform daily activities. 40% of patients with hayfever report it has a moderate or severe impact on their sleep, correlating to an estimated 5 million people with hayfever in the UK experiencing sleep disturbance due to their symptoms.[5]  This high prevalence of sleep disturbance can also have a knock-on effect the following day, with daytime drowsiness leading to impairment in productivity and learning.[4]

A study published in 2006 found that children who had hayfever symptoms while they were taking their GCSE exams were 40% more likely to drop a grade compared with their mocks, with this figure rising to 70% more likely if they were on a sedating antihistamine.[6]

Guidelines from the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology state that old-generation sedating antihistamines can lead to drowsiness and should be avoided.[3] They have also been found to have adverse effects on attention span, working memory, vigilance and speed, lower levels of motivation, and lower levels of activity compared to placebo.[7]

People who are concerned about whether they are on a sedating hayfever medication, or who do not feel their hayfever symptoms are under control, should speak to their pharmacist, GP or practice nurse regarding alternative medication. Further information about allergy can also be found on Allergy UK's website or by calling their Allergy Helpline on +44-(0)1322-619898. The Helpline operates from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Other interesting facts that came out of the survey include:

- 13% of hay fever sufferers admitting they have fallen asleep at work due to tiredness from their hayfever symptoms

- 49% of people with hay fever have opted to stay indoors on a summer's day, to avoid exacerbating their hayfever symptoms, often turning down a social event

(*) Based on 25% of people never feeling self conscious about the way they look

About the YouGov survey

Total sample size was 2,374 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 26th August 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


[1] YouGov survey for Schering-Plough August 2008. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

[2] [last accessed 2 March 2009]

[3] Scadding GK, Durham SR, Mirakian R et al. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 2008;38:19-42

[4] Shedden A. Treat Respir Med. 2005; 4 (6):438-445

[5] O'Connor Punekar. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006; 117: S322. Abstract 1244

[6] Walker S, Khan-Wasti S, Fletcher M, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;120(2):381-388

[7] Kay CG, Berman B, Mockoviak SH et al. Arch Intern Med 1997;157(20):2350-2356