A leading medical organisation has called for more people to make use of local pharmacy services in response to a recent spike in hay fever cases.
New data from the Royal College of GPs' (RCGP's) Research and Surveillance Centre has shown that hay fever cases in England have reached their highest level so far this year, leading many sufferers to visit their family doctors to get their symptoms checked out, rather than relying on over-the-counter medicines.
The number of patients seeing their GP for hay fever type symptoms has more than trebled from 11,353 to 37,568 in England since the start of June - considerably higher than the lower-than-average figure of 25,097 recorded this time last year.
It is thought that recent high temperatures are to blame for the hay fever spike, with children aged five to 14 years the group most likely to be affected. The report also indicated that teenage children are more likely to visit a GP with hay fever symptoms, rather than using over-the-counter treatments.
Given that hay fever is estimated to affect about one in ten people in the UK, a rise in the number of people suffering symptoms can place a lot of pressure on GPs - who are already overstretched - and reduce the amount of time they have to spend on treating more serious conditions.
As such, the RCGP is calling for people with seasonal hay fever to rely on their local pharmacy services instead, as the condition is one that can be self-managed without the need for prescription medication.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: "Hay fever can be awful, but the discomfort should only be temporary and there should be no long-term ill effects.
"Whilst in some cases it may be necessary to see a doctor, especially if the symptoms persist, there are many antihistamine medications that can be bought over the counter inexpensively at your pharmacist that should provide effective relief."