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UK Insights

Hay fever on the rise in the UK

Kirsty Cooke

Head of Digital Content, UK

Health 24.04.2018 / 10:00


Data from Kantar Health, Kantar Worldpanel and Lightspeed Health suggest that more and more Brits are suffering from seasonal allergies like hay fever – and are stocking up on over-the-counter products to help.

Many of us may be jumping for joy at the eventual emergence of the sun here in Blighty, but the sunny weather, blooming flowers and growing pollen count isn’t great news for many of us. Around a third of us, in fact. Kantar Health data suggests that some particularly severe allergy ‘seasons’ in the UK caused more of us to report experiencing hay fever – in 2017, 31% of adults in the UK self-reported that they experienced hay fever in the past 12 months; in 2016, 26% self-reported hay fever.

Both 2016 and 2017 were severe – and the 2016 data was collected between February and May, capturing part of a bad season, while the 2017 data was collected between May and September – during the bad season. 

The prevalence of hayfever amongst women is slightly higher, at 32.8%, than that for men – 28.2%. It also appears to be more prevalent among younger people, with 36% of 18-44 self-reporting hayfever symptoms compared to just 23.4% of the over 65s.

According to more recent survey data from Lightspeed Health, another Kantar company, 24% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of seasonal allergy, while 36% say they have an outdoor/environmental allergy. 52% claimed they were MOST allergic to pollen, and 42% of those suffering from seasonal allergies said spring was the season where they were most affected – 52% said summer. Itchy eyes was the number one symptom, with 31% of UK respondents saying they suffered from this when exposed to their top allergen.

Dealing with it

So how do Brits get through the runny noses, sneezing, itchy eyes and headaches? There is no actual cure for hay fever, but many are still being prescribed treatments (or buying their own) to ease the symptoms. In 2016, 81% of people (who had been diagnosed) were doing so, with prescription or over the counter medicine or both. This increased to 84% in 2017, says Kantar Health.

Among those not diagnosed with hay fever, about 3 in 5 use an over-the-counter treatment to manage their symptoms, according to the 2017 data. That is, over-the-counter products, herbal products, or products that can be purchased with a medical prescription.

These findings align with purchase stats from Kantar Worldpanel’s Health and Beauty division. Their data shows that the Hayfever category has seen really strong growth over the past year, with sales up 6% – well ahead of the total Healthcare market. Over the past year, to March, 21% of UK shoppers bought a hay fever product – that’s some 10.7m people.

‘This number is up (by around 482,000) year-on-year, and the number of new shoppers into the category reached over 1 million in June 2017 as temperatures and pollen levels peaked, sparking the rise in penetration,’ comments Matthew Maxwell, Consumer Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel.

‘Nasal sprays and eye drops have been the most successful formats driving this growth (as opposed to standard formats like tablets and capsules) as shoppers look for more immediate relief from hay fever that sprays can provide.’

Maxwell also explains that tissue sales over summer are relatively low in comparison to the rest of the year (because of colds) but sales of travel pack tissues did peak in July last year, with sales up 3.6% (for the 52 weeks ending July 2017), coinciding with a summer that brought hay fever out in a third of UK adults. 

Source : Kantar Health, Kantar Worldpanel, Lightspeed

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