What is hay fever?

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is your body’s response to an allergen, such as pollen, dust or mold. Symptoms of hay fever include a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, itching, and coughing. Though symptoms of hay fever are similar to those of a common cold, hay fever symptoms usually last for longer periods of time or appear only after exposure to a specific allergen.

Allergy Problems Spotlight

If you have hay fever, your body interprets an allergen that it is exposed to, such as pollen, as a foreign intruder and mounts an immune response. In essence, it is as if your body is fighting the allergen as if it were a bacterial or viral infection, which results in the symptoms of a cold.

The most common types of allergens responsible for hay fever include tree pollens, grass, ragweed, and mold. Your symptoms may change when the amount and type of allergens change, depending on the time of year, your location, and the weather. Various media outlets in your area may publish daily levels of common allergens like tree pollen or grass pollen, which may help you cope with hay fever.

Though inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable, hay fever is usually not a life-threatening or severe medical condition. For many people, effective treatment includes avoiding the allergens that trigger the body’s immune response and taking prescription antihistamines, decongestants, or steroids. In severe cases, allergy injections may be required.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for hay fever and are having trouble breathing, or if symptoms recur or are persistent despite treatment.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

The symptoms of hay fever include congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and other symptoms similar to those of a common cold. The symptoms you experience immediately after exposure to an allergen may differ from symptoms you experience the next time you are exposed to that allergen or after chronic exposure to an allergen.... Read more about hay feversymptoms

CAUSES

What causes hay fever?

Your body’s immune system is very effective at fighting infections due to viruses, bacteria or parasites. Occasionally, your body mistakes something harmless like tree pollen for something dangerous like a virus or bacteria. When this occurs, your body begins to attack the allergen as if it were a threat, which prompts the symptoms of hay fever.... Read more about hay fevercauses

TREATMENTS

How is hay fever treated?

Though there is no cure for hay fever, other than completely avoiding allergens that cause your symptoms, some treatments may make the condition much easier to endure. The most common treatments include prescription medications, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, and leukotriene inhibitors. Immune therapy is also used in more severe cases. You and your healthcare provider should determine which treatments are best for you to control your hay fever.... Read more about hay fevertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System