Sick of sneezing? Suffering with dry, itchy eyes? Whether you’re at work or lying in bed trying to sleep, allergies can make everyday life just a little more difficult. But are your allergy symptoms really caused by hay fever? If you suffer mostly at night, it could be something else.

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is a condition where the inside of the nose becomes irritated and swollen due to an allergic reaction. There are two main types of allergic rhinitis – seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, and perennial allergic rhinitis – usually just referred to as “allergic rhinitis”.

The key to a better night’s sleep? Identify which type of allergic rhinitis you’re suffering from, so that you can begin managing the symptoms more effectively.

What is hay fever?

Find yourself sneezing when you simply walk near a patch of grass? Hay fever is a common allergy, triggered by pollen from grass, trees, plants and weeds. It tends to flare up in early spring and the summer months, and is caused when the body makes allergic antibodies to allergens such as pollen. It’s also known as seasonal rhinitis.

Symptoms of hay fever

Signs that you may have hay fever include:
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dry, itchy throat
  • Sneezing
  • Blocked nose or sinuses
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

However, if you only experience these allergy symptoms at night, hay fever may not be the cause.

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is a common condition, affecting around one in five people in the UK. The symptoms are very similar to those of hay fever, which is why it’s easy to get the two confused. Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by an allergen.

While it can happen at any time of day, allergic rhinitis is mainly triggered by indoor allergens such as dust mite allergens and mould spores contained within curtains, carpets, bedding and mattresses. This is why symptoms can often be worse at night.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Signs that you may have allergic rhinitis include:
  • Sneezing
  • Itchiness of the nose
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Wheezing or tightened chest at night
If your allergy symptoms don’t appear to be going away after the pollen count has dropped, you may be suffering from perennial (year round) allergic rhinitis.

What’s causing your night time allergies?

With the symptoms of hay fever and symptoms of allergic rhinitis being so similar, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. If you’re concerned or need more information about your night time allergy, speak with your GP or practice nurse about your symptoms – they should be able to help you determine the cause.
 

Managing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis

 
  • Control pet allergens by keeping animals out of the bedroom – This creates an allergen-free zone for you to spend time in before bed and reduces exposure to your allergy triggers.
  • Swap synthetic carpets for natural alternatives: 100% wool carpets or wooden floors are better, as they don’t provide the humid environment that dust mites need to thrive.
  • Cut down on cushions: Or replace synthetic inners with all-natural wool-filled alternatives. This provides the dust mites and mould spores with one less place to hide.
  • Choose naturally hypoallergenic beddingWool-filled duvets, pillows and mattresses all create a cool, dry environment where dust mites and mould spores can’t survive. This means you can sleep on in comfort, confident that these allergens are being kept at bay. Better still, there’s no need to wash at a high heat or freeze to get rid of pesky dust mites. Your wool bedding manages this process naturally.

Seeking a great night’s sleep? Discover more tips to tackle night time allergies, night sweats and more with our Sleep Health and Advice hub.