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Understanding hay fever medicine drowsiness

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If you have hay fever you’ll know that the symptoms can be really disruptive to daily life. On sunny summer days, we all want to be able to get outdoors and enjoy the weather – but an allergy to grass and tree pollen can get in the way of that, causing sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes that have us running for shelter.

Most people with hay fever will be familiar with using antihistamines to stave off these symptoms. While these are an effective treatment, they can cause drowsiness, making it hard to work, drive, and socialise.

If you’re seeking a treatment that won’t have you falling asleep at your desk, read on. There are plenty of effective non-drowsy medicines for hay fever, which are ideal for when you need to be alert and on the go.

Can hay fever treatments make you drowsy?

Antihistamines are the most popular treatment for hay fever and other types of allergy. They work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system which causes the blood vessels to expand and the skin to swell.

There are lots of different types of antihistamine, many of which have a sedating effect – in other words, these hay fever treatments can make you drowsy. These include chlorphenamine (Piriton).

A sedating hay fever treatment can be beneficial for anyone who has symptoms like coughing and sneezing at night. Additionally, these antihistamines can be used as gentle sleeping aids for people who have trouble sleeping, regardless of their allergies.

Which hay fever treatments are likely to cause drowsiness?

  • Chlorphenamine (Piriton)
  • Promethazine
  • Cinnarizine
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Hydroxyzine

Hay fever treatments that won’t make you drowsy

Non-drowsy antihistamines

Non-sedating antihistamines usually come in tablet form or as nasal sprays. Popular types include:

While these are all classed as non-drowsy, it’s important to note that they can still make you sleepy. In fact, sleepiness is a listed a common side effect for each of these antihistamines – this means that more than one in 100 people will be affected.

When taking non-drowsy antihistamines it's best to avoid drinking alcohol. These medicines are even more likely to cause sleepiness if you drink alcohol after taking them. 


Ectoin is an alternative hay fever treatment that does not have a drowsy effect. This naturally occurring substance is found in microorganisms that live in extreme conditions e.g. very cold or very hot environments.

As a medical treatment, Ectoin has a protective effect. It creates a coating of water molecules around the mucous membranes of the skin, which helps to protect the skin from allergens and irritants.

Ectoin is the active ingredient in Fusion Allergy products. These preservative-free treatments are derived from natural ingredients and are designed for people with allergies like hay fever.

You can use Fusion Allergy lozenges, nasal sprays, eye drops, and eye sprays to prevent and treat hay fever symptoms in the mouth, throat, nose, and eyes. None of these products will cause drowsiness.

Steroid nasal sprays

Steroid nasal sprays are anti-inflammatory medicines that can be prescribed by your GP or bought over the counter in pharmacies. The medicine in these sprays can take a few days to kick in, so it’s a good idea to start using them before your symptoms are likely to start.

Side effects can occur, and include a stinging or burning sensation in the nose, dryness in the nose, and a sore throat – but not drowsiness.

Eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate

Eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate can help target hay fever symptoms affecting your eyes, by reducing irritation and inflammation. Side effects include mild stinging or burning, and blurred vision, but these tend to be temporary. Eye drops won’t cause drowsiness.

Allergy relievers

An allergy reliever is a lightweight, portable and wireless device that can reduce the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. It uses red light therapy to suppress the release of histamine, and is designed to be inserted (painlessly) into the nose for three minutes at a time. Watch our video on how to use the allergy reliever below.

An allergy reliever can be used alongside any other type of hay fever treatment, and won’t cause drowsiness. You can also use an allergy reliever when you're pregnant, find out more here

Cooling masks

A cooling mask is an eye mask that can be cooled in the freezer and placed over the eyes. It’s specifically designed to reduce the kind of irritation and inflammation brought on by hay fever.

You can make your own cooling mask at home, simply by laying a flannel soaked in cold water over your eyes. The disadvantage of this is that the cooling effect won’t last as long as a proper cooling mask.


Homeopathy is a type of complementary or alternative medicine that isn’t considered to be effective by the medical community. It’s based around the concept of “like cures like” – in other words, the substance causing the problem is also considered the cure. In a homeopathic remedy, the substance is diluted to a high degree until there is very little left.

Some people with hay fever may find that taking a homeopathic remedy like A. Vogel Pollinosan helps with their symptoms.

For more guidance, read our Hay fever treatments blog.