Survey reveals: seven in ten people with asthma and hayfever need to increase their medication during high pollen count

04 Aug 2020
  • Asthma Society survey reveals seven in ten people were concerned they might mistake COVID-19 symptoms for hayfever
  • Hayfever: more than just a summer sniffle

The Asthma Society of Ireland is today releasing the results of its Hay fever Survey which found that seven in ten people who have both asthma and hayfever have needed to increase their asthma medication when the pollen count was high.
The survey, which was completed by 524 people in June 2020, also suggested that more people with both asthma and hay fever experience more severe hay fever symptoms than those without an asthma diagnosis. People with hay fever and asthma were twice as likely to report their hayfever symptoms as ‘severe’ and ‘debilitating’ than people with hayfever and no asthma diagnosis.

The Asthma Society’s Hay fever Survey also found:

  • Seven in ten people said they were concerned they would mistake COVID-19 symptoms for hayfever
  • Eight in ten people said their asthma was triggered by pollen
  • Two in ten people said they required the use of painkillers to alleviate their hayfever symptoms
  • Five out of ten respondents had used the Asthma Society’s Pollen Tracker from asthma.e

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “For the four out of five people who have both hayfever and asthma, hay fever can be an extremely debilitating condition.

Unfortunately, many people still have the perception that hayfever is not a serious condition, but our survey identified that many people with asthma and hay fever experience a very poor quality of life during pollen season. They suffer through not only sniffling and sneezing, but also “severe headaches” and “unable to concentrate due to their hayfever”. Not only are people with asthma and hay fever affected physically, but a large number of people who completed our survey also described the condition as being “embarrassing” and “humiliating”.

For 304,000 people who suffer from both asthma and hayfever, they need to be extremely vigilant with their hay fever management to ensure their hay fever does not trigger an asthma attack. For more information on pollen levels in your area, visit our Pollen Tracker page on which displays pollen levels for the both the current day and the next  and also give hints and tips for managing hay fever during days when the pollen count is high.”

The Asthma Society’s Pollen Tracker on is kindly supported by Dyson.

Anonymous survey user said: ”Two years ago, the pollen levels were very high and I was forced to take over two weeks off work. I had to stay in bed and was really very unwell.”

Anonymous survey user said: “This year, during the gorgeous weather in lockdown. I went out with my two daughters to the back garden, a neighbour started to cut his grass. Within two minutes, my eyes were itchy, within five minutes my nose was blocked constant sneezing. Within 10 minutes, I was having an asthma attack. Even though I had gone inside at first sign of symptoms and had taken antihistamines and Ventolin. Ended up using my nebuliser.”

Dr. Marcus Butler, Medical Director of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “The Asthma Society’s survey revealed that, in general, hayfever causes distress to people with asthma. In particular, this year people with asthma and hayfever also had the added concern that they might mistake COVID-19 symptoms as being hayfever. 

Although there are some common symptoms in hayfever and COVID-19, there are a few important differences people should look out for. In hayfever cases, the majority of sufferers will experience sneezing which is not considered to be a symptom of COVID-19. In COVID-19 cases, the patient will usually experience a high temperature and frequently COVID-19 patients have muscle aches and pains,  and neither of these symptoms are typically associated with hay fever. Its worth emphasising that despite it’s name, historically linked to the summer hay-making season, hayfever is not in fact a condition that causes fever, whereas fever is the number one most common symptom of COVID-19. People who are concerned on whether their symptoms are related to COVID-19 or to hayfever should call their GP. They can also visit for their ‘Know your Symptoms Chart’ which breaks down common respiratory diseases and illnesses to help identify which condition they are experiencing.”

Anonymous survey user said: “Sometimes hayfever cripples me. I find daily life very difficult. It is harder during COVID-19 as it means I can’t even go to my local shop in case people think I have COVID-19.”

Top Tips for Managing your Hayfever during Pollen Season:

  • Keep an eye daily on the Asthma Society’s pollen tracker on
  • Speak to a nurse on the Asthma Society’s free Asthma and COPD Adviceline (1800 44 54 64) about putting a hayfever management plan in place
  • Use the Asthma Society’s new Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp Patient Support service for any questions on asthma, COPD, coronavirus or hayfever
  • Talk to doctor or pharmacist NOW about taking medication to prevent / reduce symptoms. Don't wait until you feel unwell
  • Keep windows shut in your bedroom at night
  • Keep windows and doors closed when the pollen count is high
  • Stay indoors as much as possible on high pollen days
  • Stay away from grassy areas, especially when grass is freshly cut
  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes if you have been outside for an extended period of time
  • Avoid drying clothes outdoors, or shake them outdoors before bringing them in
  • Minimise your contact with pets that have been outdoors and are likely to be carrying pollen

If people with asthma or COPD have any questions in relation to symptoms they are experiencing, they can use the Asthma Society’s new Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp patient support service which allows people to message a respiratory specialist nurse to get support, advice and information about asthma, COPD, coronavirus and hayfever. This free WhatsApp service is available on 086 059 0132.

People who would prefer to speak to a nurse can call the Asthma Society’s free Joint Asthma and COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64.

Our Pollen Tracker is now live and shows pollen levels across the four provinces.