Hayfever is a blight on many people's lives, affecting up to 30 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children.

Watery, itchy eyes, blocked noses and sometimes uncontrollable sneezing - pollen allergies can affect people terribly, impacting their ability to concentrate at work or school.

Consultant immunologist at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, Dr Amolak Bansal said: “The symptoms of hay fever can be truly unpleasant, but sadly are quite common.

"For hay fever sufferers who also have asthma, the symptoms can be more severe and can often lead to tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and wheezing and coughing.

“If you are feeling worse for wear then I would recommend speaking to your pharmacist. They can give advice and suggest the best treatments, like antihistamine tablets, anti-allergy eye drops and/or steroid nasal sprays.

"If your symptoms get worse or do not get better after taking medication from your local pharmacist, get in touch with your GP.”

How well do we understand hayfever?

But many people know surprisingly little about hayfever, despite how common it is.

In a recent survey, one in five people said they did not realise a runny nose was a common symptom of hayfever, and one in five also thought it was transmitted from one person to another like a cold.

One in three respondents said "bird pollen" was a real thing, when in reality there are just three main types of pollen: tree, grass and weed - definitely not bird.

Each of these types has its own season from January to November, with tree pollen appearing first, then grass pollen from mid-May to July, and finally weed pollen.

How to reduce the symptoms

Lloyds Pharmacy gave these tips to help reduce the effects of hayfever:

  • Keep windows closed when at home and overnight. Most pollen is released in the early morning and falls to ground level in the evenings when the air cools.
  • When outdoors, wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. Hay fever sufferers can experience itchy eyes when coming into contact with pollen spores.
  • Avoid drying your clothes outside when pollen counts are high. If you do, shake items before bringing them inside.
  • Keep car windows closed when driving and fit a pollen filter to reduce the impact of pollen grains.
  • When indoors, there are a number of useful tips to reduce the impact of hay fever symptoms such as: vacuuming regularly, avoid bringing fresh flowers indoors, and be aware that pets can bring pollen in on their fur.
  • Don't allow smoking in the house as this will irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, making your hay fever symptoms worse.
  • After being outside, shower and wash your hair to remove pollen.

What other bizarre myths exist around pollen and hay fever in the UK?

A spoonful of honey a day will keep hay fever at bay: 61 per cent think this is true

  • The belief is that a spoonful of honey helps desensitise you to pollen however there is no scientific evidence to support this.

A pescetarian diet will help reduce symptoms of hay fever: 80 per cent said this was blatantly false, but it may actually be true

  • A recent study by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a diet rich in Omega-3 is associated with reducing symptoms. Perhaps not a cure, but potentially worth trying

Tree pollen dispersal is highest when it rains: 40 per cent think this is true

  • Tree pollen season traditionally lasts from late March to mid-May and during this time, if it rains, it’s good news for hay fever sufferers as this lessens the chance of dispersal for this type of pollen. Conversely, rain can worsen pollen levels during grass pollen season (mid-May to July) so it’s not always a good thing

The pollen count is measured by a society of bee keepers who record the number of bees pollinating plants in their local area: astonishingly, 36 per cent thought this was genuine, but it is false

  • The pollen count is literally the amount of pollen per cubic metre observed over 24 hours. There are various expert monitoring sites across the UK which measure pollen between March and September.