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What is 'hay fever'? What are its symptoms?

What is 'hay fever'? What are its symptoms?

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What is 'hay fever'? What are its symptoms?

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, results in symptoms similar to a cold. Symptoms include: Runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, and sinus pressure. But hay fever isn't brought on by a virus like a cold is. Hay fever is brought on by an allergic reaction to an indoor or outdoor substance that the body mistakenly perceives as harmful (allergen).

Hay Fever Causes

Your immune system misclassifies a harmless airborne substance as harmful when you have hay fever. Your immune system creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to defend against this allergen because it is how your body defends itself. These antibodies alert your immune system to release histamine into your bloodstream the next time you come into contact with the allergen. The hay fever symptoms are brought on as a result of this reaction.

Hay fever symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose and congestion
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Itchy throat, nose, or roof of mouth
  • Postnasal drip, or mucus that drips from the back of your throat
  • Skin beneath the eyes that appears swollen and bruised (allergic shiners)
  • Extreme fatigue, frequently brought on by a lack of sleep

The signs and symptoms of hay fever can be year-round or seasonal, beginning or getting worse during a specific season.

Hay fever triggers include:

  • Tree pollen is a typical early spring allergen.
  • Grass pollen is a typical late spring and summer allergen.
  • Ragweed pollen is prevalent in the fall.
  • Cockroach feces and dust mites are year-round pests.
  • Pet dander is bothersome year-round, but during the winter, when homes are closed up, it may worsen symptoms.
  • Spores from seasonal as well as perennial indoor and outdoor fungi
    and molds.

Management and Treatment

Avoiding the allergens that cause symptoms is the first step in treating seasonal or perennial forms of allergic rhinitis or hay fever.

Outdoor exposure

  • When pollen counts are at their highest, typically in the middle of the day and early evening (this can vary depending on the plant pollen), and when the wind is blowing pollen around, spend as much time indoors as you can.
  • Use window fans sparingly because they can bring mold and pollen into the house.
  • When outdoors, wear eyewear or sunglasses to reduce the amount of pollen that enters your eyes.
  • Avoid drying clothing outside as pollen can adhere to towels
    and sheets.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes as doing so will irritate them and might exacerbate your symptoms.


These include:

  • Antihistamine sprays or tablets: These sprays are frequently sold over the counter and prevent the release of the chemical histamine. They typically work well to relieve sneezing, itching, and runny nose symptoms, but they cannot clear blocked sinuses. Older antihistamines may make you feel sleepy.
  • Eye drops: These lessen eye itch and swelling. They are typically taken in addition to other medications. Cromoglycate is a common ingredient in eye drops.
  • Nasal corticosteroids: These sprays are used to reduce hay fever-related inflammation. They provide a protracted, risk-free treatment. The advantages might not manifest for a week.

‘Hay Fever’ may occasionally be relieved with medication. However, surgery may be an option to improve breathing if medication alone is unable to offer relief. Balloon sinuplasty is a specialty of the American Sinus Institute, which serves patients in San Antonio and throughout Texas. Contact our board-certified physicians in Otolaryngology to find out how balloon sinuplasty can help relieve your sinus problems.