LONDON, April 14 /PRNewswire/ --

Over five million of the 13 million hay fever sufferers across Britain could be taking inappropriate medicines, putting their health at risk. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is encouraging people experiencing the symptoms of hay fever to visit their community pharmacist after new research revealed that the public often misdiagnose the condition and fail to get the correct treatment.

Allergic rhinitis, known as hay fever, is a condition which is caused by the pollen of specific seasonal plants, airborne chemicals and dust particles. It is commonly characterised by the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and itching eyes(x).

A survey, commissioned by the RPSGB, found that a staggering 73% of people who experience these symptoms fail to seek medical advice before selecting a treatment.

Moreover, the research reveals the damaging effects hay fever can have on sufferers' quality of life. The research finds that almost 40% of hay fever sufferers become irritable, and a third experience difficultly sleeping. Worryingly, 29% have difficultly concentrating and 14% said their symptoms affected their ability to read - findings which could have significant implications for school children and students, particularly as the hay fever season clashes with exam time.

More than one in 10 said they are embarrassed about their appearance and avoid socialising, while one in 20 hay fever sufferers say they avoid leaving the home because of their condition.

David Pruce, RPSGB Director of Practice & Quality Improvement, says:

"The survey results clearly demonstrate the impacts a condition like hay fever can have on peoples' lives, with millions suffering unnecessarily. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals and experts in medicines - they can play a significant role in the management of allergies including hay fever.

"The numbers of people failing to seek advice about their symptoms is surprising. There is a large choice of anti-allergy products available and pharmacists are well placed to advise on what is best for the individual. Pharmacists can help people recognise symptoms, identify allergy triggers and select appropriate products. Pharmacists can also suggest life-style changes that may bring relief from hay fever and advise patients about potential side-effects of the medicines they may be taking.

"Pharmacies are situated in the places where people live, work and shop and are open at convenient times without the need to make an appointment."

Notes to Editors

Hay Fever

Allergic rhinitis, known as hay fever, is a condition which is caused by the pollen of specific seasonal plants, airborne chemicals and dust particles, which only occur at certain times of the year, in people who are allergic to these substances. Cells on the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals when they come in contact with pollen. This causes inflammation in the nose (rhinitis) and eyes (conjunctivitis). Hay fever is commonly characterised by sneezing, runny nose and itching eyes.

(x)Hay fever symptoms are wide-ranging. They can include the following:

- itching of the nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin, or any area exposed to the allergen

- runny nose

- watering eyes and/or plugged up ear canals.

- sneezing

- impaired smell

- nasal congestion

- sore throat

- wheezing

- conjunctivitis

- fever

- coughing

- headache

- fatigue

- irritability

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is the professional and regulatory body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales. It also regulates pharmacy technicians on a voluntary basis, which is expected to become statutory under anticipated legislation. The primary objectives of the Society are to lead, regulate, develop and represent the profession of pharmacy.


Research was carried out by YouGov between 02-04 April 2008, interviewing 1981 people including 547 hay fever sufferers. The GB population of adults 18+ is (according to ONS) 46,158,100. Therefore the number of hay fever sufferers in Great Britain aged 18 years of age and above (27.59%) is 12,735,019. Of these, 41.95% agreed that they may have misdiagnosed their condition, which equates to 5,342,340.

Full research results are available on request.

For media enquiries please contact the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain's Public Relations Unit on +44(0)20-7572-2653