Home > Causes > Pollution and Hayfever

Pollution and Hayfever

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 16 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Pollution Hay Fever Air Traffic Cars

Although pollen still remains the most common cause of hay fever other allergens can also trigger your watery eyes, sneezing and congestion. There is now evidence to suggest that air pollution can worsen hay fever symptoms. Research has found that hay fever rates are higher in cities as opposed to the more rural surrounding areas, which is surprising given the extremely high pollen counts often found in rural areas. This would tend to indicate that some aspect of city life is affecting hay fever symptoms; pollution seems to be the likely culprit. In Britain, for example, pollen counts have consistently been on the decline yet the incidence of hay fever has increased dramatically.


Traffic can be frustrating for most of us but there is yet another reason to dislike traffic - it pollinates the air. Cars and other vehicles on the road tend to mix up dust, which carries a great deal of pollen through the air, allowing it to easily come into contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. In addition, vehicle exhaust itself can make people more sensitive to allergens. Another concern is that excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide could be damaging to the breathing passages. In particular, air pollution affects the release of birch pollen, leaving hay fever sufferers with their distressing, characteristic symptoms.

Ultimately, pollution does not cause hay fever but it does exacerbate it, intensifying your painful hay fever symptoms. You can help to reduce the effects by keeping car windows closed when driving and using air conditioning in the summertime. Unfortunately, those who do suffer from hay fever may end up contributing to the very problem they are trying to escape as they use their cars more often to avoid walking outside on the city streets, where traffic easily brings pollen into contact with their nose, eyes and throat. Another issue is that pollution makes it much more challenging for allergens in the air to disperse, which means that their concentrations can sometimes be significantly higher in busy, city areas.

Sadly, hay fever can leave people avoiding the city areas and all they have to offer. One UK survey found that almost a quarter of hay fever sufferers who were surveyed avoided dining outside because of their hay fever symptoms. It's unfortunate when allergies prevent an individual from fully enjoying life, particularly the social aspects.


People who suffer from hay fever will likely be more sensitive to cigarette smoke. Hay fever sufferers who also suffer from asthma will be particularly susceptible to the effects of smoke on their lungs, eyes and nose. The banning of smoking in many public areas in Britain may have been a welcome relief for those who suffer from allergies. When travelling to other countries, however, you may need to avoid areas where smoke strongly permeates the air, such as night clubs. Always aim to sit in designated non-smoking areas when you are at restaurants. The last thing you need is to suffer through what should be an enjoyable trip because your hay fever symptoms are severe.

Pollution is one of those largely unavoidable realities that is more a nuisance for the average person but can be a nightmare for someone who suffers from hay fever. Unfortunately, there isn't a great deal you can do but as society becomes more educated about the issue, it is hoped that reductions in pollution will occur. This reduction in pollution is not only for the more publicized aspects such as global warming, but also for those who quietly suffer on the sidelines from allergies such as hay fever.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Andrew
    Re: Tree Pollen
    I have been effected by tree pollen for years and so I know the signs. This year highlights the confusion for those who do not know about tree pollen…
    29 March 2020
  • Paul
    Re: Tree Pollen
    I forgot to add, I get these symptoms in the house too. Apologies for the typing issues in my earlier post. I am typing this from an I phone. Paul
    22 March 2020
  • Paul
    Re: Tree Pollen
    Hi all, I have enjoyed reading your comments. With interest. We have a very large oak near to the front of the property, a very large tree outside of,…
    22 March 2020
  • Andrea
    Re: Tree Pollen
    My husband has a dry tickly cough and with the COVID 19 we are self isolating. I have post nasal drip, so constantly swallowing, a fullness in my head,…
    21 March 2020
  • Strontium
    Re: Tree Pollen
    I also suffer with tree pollen allergy. You need to modify your diet. Food and drink are a massive contributor to your body's histamine levels.…
    16 March 2020
  • kmac
    Re: Tree Pollen
    pgm - I am in the same boat. Always suffered from hay fever, but usually just itchy eyes and the tiredness. Last year in March the tree pollen made me…
    15 March 2020
  • Pgm
    Re: Tree Pollen
    I usually get tree pollen allergy between late March and end of May. This year it has started early with itchy throat and eyes and a tendency to cough.…
    13 March 2020
  • satya
    Re: Hayfever Eye Care
    since last 3 years have developed pollen allergy, red tomatto red eyes ,running nose and what not, i stay in india gujarat and dont know how to…
    2 March 2020
  • Lilo
    Re: Tree Pollen
    My son now 13 suffered from really bad tree and grass pollen induced hayfever and also Asthma. He is now in the second year of self funded oral…
    23 February 2020
  • Amy
    Re: Tree Pollen
    Last year suggested with hay fever for first time. I sneeze a lot and get really itchy ears and sometimes itchy eyes. When it gets really bad also…
    8 February 2020