30 June 2017

Spike in Summer Hay Fever Cases, Show RCGP Figures

Hay fever cases in England have reached their highest level so far this year, and are just under 50% higher compared to this time in 2016, the latest weekly figures from the Royal College of General Practitioners’ Research and Surveillance Centre show.

The figures reveal a spike in the number of patients seeing their GP for hay fever type symptoms - or allergic rhinitis - since the start of June, with family doctor visits more than tripling from 11,353 to 37,568* in England. The equivalent of 20.25 to 67.00 consultations per 100,000 patients.

This represents a huge 230% increase.

Figures from the College’s RSC, which monitors trends in diseases through patient consultations at GP surgeries, also show a significant increase compared to the same time last year – which was lower than average -  when 25,097 people visited their GP presenting with hay fever in England (the equivalent of 44.76 per 100,000 patients).

Mid-June traditionally marks the start of the hay fever season as pollen is released into the air, causing misery for millions across the country. Whilst in line with the average five-year trend, rates are at their highest for 2017 so far – something that could have been intensified by recent high temperatures.

Most affected are children aged five to 14 years, followed by people between 15 and 24 years – with the former age group experiencing symptoms up to more than two and half times that of other age groups.

Hay fever traditionally develops in school-age children during the teenage years and these groups are more likely to visit a GP with hay fever symptoms rather than using over the counter treatments.

Caused by an allergy to pollens, hay fever is estimated to affect about 1 in 10 people in the UK. Grass pollen is the most common cause and tends to affect people every year from around May to July. Tree pollens tend to affect people from March to May and weed pollens from early spring to early autumn.

Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes, and are caused by the immune system reacting to the pollen. Cells on the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals, causing inflammation in the nose (rhinitis) and eyes (conjunctivitis). Sometimes the sinuses and throat can also be affected.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP said: “Each year, seasonal hay fever can cause untold misery to thousands of people across the country. The weather may have taken a turn for the worse, but we are still seeing a steep rise in allergic rhinitis presentations in our surgeries – the highest so far in 2017 and higher compared to this time last year, which was surprisingly low.

“Hay fever can be awful but the discomfort should only be temporary and there should be no long-term ill effects. Whilst in some cases it may be necessary to see a doctor, especially if the symptoms persist, there are many anti-histamine medications that can be bought over the counter inexpensively at your pharmacist that should provide effective relief.

"Patients that suffer from hay fever can also take simple steps to help miminise their exposure to pollen, such as wearing a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses, and to applying Vaseline to nostrils to help trap pollen particles.”

Further Information

*Figure are extrapolated from the RSC’s sentinel network, covering 2.8% of the GP-registered English population and are representative in all demographic dimensions, such as gender, age, ethnicity, and deprivation levels.

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.