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Hay fever

Read about the two main complications of hay fever – sinusitis and a middle ear infection. Hay fever can also have a negative impact on your work, home and social life.

Hay fever can lead to complications such as sinusitis and middle ear infections (otitis media). It can also have a significant impact on your daily activities.

In one study, a third of adults with hay fever reported that their symptoms had a considerable negative impact on their work, home and social life.

Children's symptoms can disrupt their schooling and lead to delays in learning and development. Unfortunately, the peak of the grass pollen season coincides with the annual GCSE examinations. 

In most cases, the negative impact can be reduced with treatment. However, see your GP if you're concerned that hay fever is becoming an increasing problem in your (or your child’s) life.

You should also make extra efforts to limit exposure to pollen. Read more about preventing hay fever.


Infection of the sinuses (small, air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) is a complication of hay fever.

This is called sinusitis and it can cause pain and tenderness in the face (near the affected sinuses). You may experience a throbbing pain that's worse when you move your head, and toothache or pain in your jaw when you eat.

The swelling of the nasal passages that occurs in hay fever can prevent mucus from draining out of the sinuses. This can make them more vulnerable to infection.

Sinusitis can usually be treated using over-the-counter painkillers. If your symptoms persist, antibiotics and corticosteroid tablets or sprays may be required.

Read more about treating sinusitis.

Middle ear infection (otitis media)

Hay fever can lead to a middle ear infection if the Eustachian tube (the thin tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose) becomes blocked by a build-up of mucus.

Middle ear infections are more common in children, because their Eustachian tube is smaller than an adult's and can become blocked more easily.

Most middle ear infections will clear up within 72 hours without the need for treatment. Further treatment is usually only necessary if ear infections keep on occurring.

Read more about treating a middle ear infection.

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