What is Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis)?

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)

People affected by hay fever experience an allergic reaction to pollen
from plants.
The type of allergic reaction involved in hay fever and allergic rhinitis reaction, which may involve a skin rash called hives, as well as coughing, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Allergic rhinitis is one of the atopic diseases; a set of genetically inherited conditions including asthma, atopic eczema, and atopic dermatitis.

Plants produce more during the early spring and summer months. For this reason,
the allergic rhinitis that occurs in hay fever can also be described as seasonal rhinitis.
Both adults and children can suffer from hay fever and it is estimated to affect between
40 and 60 million people in the United States.[1]

Symptoms of Hay Fever

The allergic rhinitis reaction is triggered when certain allergens such as pollen, mold or house dust come into contact with the lining of the eyes, nose, and throat. This causes symptoms such as:

  • Coughing (as a result of the post nasal drip)
  • Hives (a rash on the skin)
  • Red, itchy, and watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling around the eyes

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis can be uncomfortable for the sufferer and may interfere
with daily life. As a result of their symptoms, people with hay fever can experience problems including:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems remembering things
  • Irritability
  • Decreased concentration
  • Increased risk of work-related injuries and vehicle accidents

In addition to the symptoms listed above, people who suffer from both asthma and allergic
rhinitis are likely to experience asthmatic symptoms during an attack of hay fever. Most
commonly these include a tight feeling in the chest, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If you think that you or a loved one may be affected by hay fever, check your symptoms at Adoctor symptoms.


Sufferers of hay fever commonly experience symptoms during the summer months when the pollen count is at its highest. To reduce the negative impact of hay fever, it is necessary to identify the specific allergens which trigger the symptoms.

Particular plants which are known to cause hay fever symptoms on a widespread scale include:[2]

  • Airborne mold (summer and autumn)
  • Grass pollen (spring and summer)
  • Pollen from trees (spring and summer)
  • Weed pollen (spring, summer and autumn)


To diagnose hay fever, a doctor will assess the symptoms.

Diagnostic tests which may be carried out include an intradermal test and/or a prick and scratch test. These tests involve giving the affected person small amounts of specific allergens to see if an allergic reaction takes place.

Intradermal test

An intradermal test is the most accurate way to determine whether a person is suffering
from hay fever. Possible allergens (such as grass and weed pollen) are injected under the
skin. After 20 minutes, the site is monitored for an allergic reaction, which usually
involves the reddening of the skin and an itching sensation.

Prick or scratch test

The prick or scratch test is the most common type of skin test. It involves pricking or scratching
the skin before exposure to an allergen-containing solution. The results are known within
10 to 20 minutes.

Blood test

In certain cases; for example, if there is a medical reason why intradermal or prick or scratch testing cannot be carried out, a blood test may be used to confirm the diagnosis of hay fever.

A blood test for hay fever is also known as an antibody test. It involves sending a sample of the affected person’s blood to a laboratory, where it will be analyzed for the presence of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These are proteins that are produced by the immune system during an allergic reaction to pollen. In people who are having an allergic response to pollen, levels of IgE in the blood will be significantly higher than in those who are not, leading to a diagnosis of hay fever.

Read more about Blood Test Results »


A treatment plan for hay fever typically involves following precautions to avoid hay fever
triggers and taking medication as needed to manage the symptoms. For many people, one or
more short-term medications can be sufficient to manage the symptoms of hay fever. For
others, immunotherapy is a possible treatment option that can provide long-term relief.

Medications for temporary relief

For many people affected by hay fever, short-term medications effectively treat the symptoms
of hay fever on a temporary basis. Alleviating the symptoms when they flare-up is usually
sufficient for someone with hay fever to maintain a normal quality of life.

Antihistamines relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as itching, skin
irritation and watery eyes. They can be administered as needed as nasal spray, tablets, or
eye drops.

Nasal corticosteroid medications are very effective at reducing the symptoms
caused by allergies.
Used over time, they can help to desensitize the nasal passageway to
the allergens which cause hay fever.[3]

Immunotherapy (hyposensitization therapy)

If antihistamines and nasal corticosteroid medications do not enable a person to manage their
hay fever symptoms effectively, the doctor will prescribe a course of immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option that serves to alter the body’s autoimmune response to allergens. When it is used to treat hay fever, a course of immunotherapy typically begins about three months before exposure to hay fever triggers is likely to occur and involves either a series of injections or the administration of sublingual allergy tablets.

Treatment with sublingual immunotherapy involves daily administration of the allergens, in
a liquid or tablet which is placed under the tongue. Treatment with injections is divided
into two stages. In the first stage, a person will be injected at intervals over a period of several weeks with increasingly concentrated doses of the allergen. During the second phase, they will receive monthly top-up injections of the allergen at a uniform dose.


Whilst it is not always possible to avoid pollen and other allergens completely, it is
possible to take precautions against hay fever. Making changes to one’s daily routine and
environment can reduce a person’s exposure to airborne pollen.

To prevent pollen exposure as one goes about one’s day is advisable to stay indoors as much as possible. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can help to prevent allergic reactions. It is also advisable to avoid using tobacco products, particularly smoking, which can aggravate the symptoms of hay fever by irritating the airways. Breathing moist air (from hot water) can also help to alleviate the congestion associated with hay fever.

To exclude pollen from the home environment, keeping the windows and doors shut is recommended. It is also advisable to change into freshly washed clothes when you reenter the house and cleaning any domestic air vents and installing a pollen filter in your car can also help reduce contact with allergens. When one is outside, it is helpful to avoid cut grass and fresh flowers.

Hay fever FAQs

u003cstrongu003eDoes antihistamine cause tiredness?u003c/strongu003e

u003cstrongu003eMany systemic antihistamines cause drowsiness as a side-effect.u003c/strongu003e Doctors oftenu003cbru003eadvise taking varieties of antihistamines which cause tiredness at night time. When sourcingu003cbru003emedication for hay fever, it is important to find out whether tiredness is one of its sideu003cbru003eeffects, as this will make it unsafe to drive or operate heavy machinery.

u003cstrongu003eIs there a cure for hay fever?u003c/strongu003e

There is no absolute cure for allergic rhinitis, but the right treatment plan canu003cbru003ereduce symptoms significantly and enable a normal quality of life. Immunotherapy/hyposensitizationu003cbru003etherapy can achieve long-term pollen desensitization to specific triggers.

u003cstrongu003eCan hay fever be mistaken for other conditions?u003c/strongu003e

Hay fever shares many symptoms with the common cold. If you have been sufferingu003cbru003efrom cold-like symptoms including nasal congestion and sneezing for over two weeks, it isu003cbru003eadvisable to seek a medical opinion as you may be suffering from hay fever.

Read more about the Common Cold »

  1. Types of allergies: allergic rhinitis.” American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 2014. Accessed: 27 June 2017.

  2. Mold allergy.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. October 2015. Accessed: 27 June 2017.

  3. Steroid nasal sprays.” NHS. 07 March 2017. Accessed: 24 October 2018.

**What is Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)?**

**Q: What is Hay Fever?**

**A:** Hay fever,‍ also ‍known as allergic⁤ rhinitis, ⁤is a common allergic reaction to ⁣airborne⁣ allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. When these allergens come into contact with the nasal passages, they trigger ⁤an allergic reaction that leads to the inflammation and irritation of the‍ mucous membranes.

**Q: ‍What are the Symptoms‌ of Hay Fever?**

**A:** Symptoms of‌ hay fever can vary​ in intensity‌ but typically include:

* Sneezing

* Runny nose (clear or watery)

* Stuffy or congested nose

* Itchy eyes, nose, and throat

* Tearing or watery eyes

* Fatigue

* Headache

* Pressure or⁤ pain in the face

**Q: What Causes Hay Fever?**

**A:** Hay ‌fever is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain allergens. When these allergens enter the nasal passages, the body produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).‍ These antibodies bind ‍to cells in the nasal lining ⁣called ‌mast ‌cells, which release⁤ histamine and other inflammatory mediators. These mediators ⁢cause the blood vessels in the nose to swell, leading to congestion and mucus production.

**Q: What are the Common ⁢Allergens​ that Cause Hay Fever?**

**A:** The most common allergens that​ trigger hay⁢ fever include:

* **Tree pollen:** released in spring and early summer

* **Grass pollen:** released in late⁢ spring and ⁢summer

* **Ragweed pollen:** released in late summer and fall

* **Dust‍ mites:** ‍tiny ⁣creatures⁤ found in bedding, carpets, and curtains

* **Pet⁢ dander:** shed by cats, dogs, and other pets

**Q: How is Hay Fever Diagnosed?**

**A:** Hay fever is diagnosed based on the patient’s ⁤symptoms ⁤and a medical history. The doctor may also perform a physical examination of the nose and throat to check for inflammation and congestion. An allergy test, such as a skin prick test ​or blood ⁣test, can identify the ⁤specific ⁤allergens‌ that trigger⁢ the symptoms.

**Q: How is Hay Fever Treated?**

**A:** The treatment for hay⁤ fever aims to reduce the symptoms and prevent further allergic reactions. Common treatment options include:

* **Medications:**

* Antihistamines: block the ‌effects of histamine

‍ * Nasal decongestants: shrink swollen nasal passages

⁢ * Nasal corticosteroids: ⁢reduce ⁢inflammation

* **Allergy shots (immunotherapy):** gradually expose the body to increasing amounts of the allergen over ⁣time, helping the​ immune system to build tolerance

* **Lifestyle changes:**

*⁢ Avoid exposure to allergens as much as possible

‌ * Use air filters or purifiers

⁣ *⁣ Take cool showers after⁢ being outdoors

‍ * ⁤Wear a mask ⁤when mowing the lawn​ or cleaning dusty areas

One comment

  1. Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis) is a common seasonal allergic reaction to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. It can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion.

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