Hay fever/ Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis and Conjunctivitis (adults)


Diagnosis and management of seasonal (spring/summer) allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis. For seasonal allergic rhinitis see separate guidelines. For perennial/non-seasonal allergic rhinitis see separate guidelines.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Bilateral nasal itching
  • Blockage and rhinorrhoea
  • Sneezing
  • Bilateral conjunctivitis.

Differential diagnosis

  • Perennial rhinoconjunctivitis (non-seasonal)
  • Infective rhinosinusitis
  • Non-allergic (e.g. hormonal, drug-induced, vasomotor) rhinitis

For diagnostic algorithm see: BSACI – Guidelines/Algorithm-RhinitisPCCL

Red Flags

  • Unilateral symptoms
  • Polyps
  • Persistent blood stained or purulent discharge or persistent purulent discharge

Consider referral to ENT (see referral details)


  1. Mild symptoms should be treated with oral non-sedating antihistamines at doses up to twice BNF maximum dosing (cetirizine 10mg, loratadine 10mg up to twice daily).
  2. Moderate-severe symptoms should be treated with intranasal corticosteroid (e.g. beclometasone, two sprays into each nostril twice daily; consider trying alternative (e.g. mometasone or fluticasone furoate) in addition to non-sedating antihistamines. Consistent daily use of intranasal use is vital, given maximal effect may not be apparent for at least two weeks.
    1. Start antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids two weeks before usual symptom onset and continue throughout season
    2. Training in appropriate nasal spray technique essential. Guidance is available at National asthma - intranasal-corticosteroid-spray-technique
  3. Systemic corticosteroids (in addition to intranasal corticosteroid) at doses of 15- 20mg for a maximum of 5 days as a one-off treatment can be used for severe symptoms uncontrolled on conventional therapy, to control symptoms during important periods (e.g. exams or other major events).
  4. Topical sodium cromoglicate eye drops are useful to manage allergic conjunctivitis.

Consider a concomitant diagnosis of asthma and manage according to guidelines

  • Montelukast can be added to conventional therapy in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and concomitant asthma.

Avoid sedating antihistamines, depot corticosteroids, and chronic use of decongestants.

Treatment failure should prompt a review of the diagnosis, compliance with therapy (regular therapy is more effective than "as required" treatment), and intranasal corticosteroid technique.

Experience from Peninsula Immunology and Allergy Service suggests that 70% of patients referred with severe symptoms achieve satisfactory symptom control using non-sedating antihistamines and regular intranasal corticosteroids alone.

For more information see:


Referral criteria

  • Seasonal symptoms that are severe and resistant to treatment (when combination treatment at maximum doses has been attempted throughout the season). Treatment should be initiated at least 2 weeks before the anticipated start of the pollen season.

Referral Instructions

Red Flags – refer to ENT
  • Refer using e-Referral Service
    • Specialty: ENT
    • Clinic type: Not otherwise specified
    • Service: DRSS-Northern-Ear Nose and Throat- Devon CCG- 15N
Refer to Peninsula Immunology and Allergy Service
  • Refer using e-Referral Service
    • Specialty: Allergy
    • Clinic type: Allergy
    • Service: DRSS-Northern-Allergy- Devon CCG- 15N

Referral Forms

DRSS Referral form

Supporting Information

GP Information

BSACI - Rhinitis management guidelines

Onlinelibrary.wiley - guidelines for the management of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis

Pathway Group

This guideline has been signed off by the Northern Locality on behalf of NEW Devon CCG.

Publication date: March 2016


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