Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen from grass, trees and weeds during the spring and summer months. Grass pollen is the most common allergen (May to July), but tree (February to June) and weed pollens (June to September) can also cause hay fever.

The main symptoms are itchy, watery or red eyes, sneezing, blocked or runny nose and itchiness at the back of the throat, nose and ears. For some people, the protein found in pollen can cause their eyes to become irritated and inflamed, as well as the throat and sinuses. This can become quite uncomfortable, even debilitating, and can prevent people from enjoying the warmer weather.

Crucially for employers, this uncomfortable condition is also likely to have an impact on a sufferer’s performance at work.

Jim Lythgow, director of strategic alliances for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said:

‘With the pollen count high at present, symptoms such as itchy, sore and streaming eyes will sharply increase for hay fever sufferers. These can be a real distraction when you’re trying to work. Thankfully, there are some basic steps that can help alleviate the disruptive symptoms.’

How hay fever sufferers can alleviate symptoms:

  • Monitor pollen forecasts daily. The pollen count is likely to be higher on warmer, dry days and lower on cooler, wet days
  • Limit exposure to pollen by staying indoors on days when pollen counts are high
  • Wraparound glasses or sunglasses can help keep pollen out of the eyes
  • A small amount of barrier balm around the nostrils can help to trap pollen grains and prevent a reaction
  • Consult a GP for advice on antihistamine medication

Why employees should be discouraged from self-misdiagnosing symptoms

Watering, itchy, red or swollen eyes can all be symptoms of common allergies like hay fever. However, many employees may not realise that these symptoms could also be the signs of a potentially serious eye condition.

Dr Nigel Best, Specsavers’ clinical spokesperson, says:

‘Dismissing streaming or puffy eyes as just hay fever is a mistake many people make during the summer months. If employees start to experience discomfort or irritation that doesn’t go away with the help of antihistamines, there’s a chance it could be the sign of an eye infection.’

Irritated, achy and red eyes can also be a sign of iritis, an inflammation of the iris which in some cases can lead to serious complications, if left untreated, including cataracts and glaucoma.

It is important to seek the advice of an optometrist as they will be able to provide a proper diagnosis as well as guidance on the correct care and solutions.

How employers can support employees

Jim Lythgow comments:

‘Many companies offer eyecare to their staff, and we would encourage them to communicate this important benefit specifically at this time. Helping to manage hay fever and other possible eye conditions will benefit the employer as well as the employee.’

All eye care eVouchers from Specsavers Corporate Eyecare include a full eye examination where the optician will be able to advise on conditions like hay fever.

For more information visit www.specsavers.co.uk/corporate