Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn't caused by a virus. Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen, dust mites or tiny flecks of skin and saliva shed by cats, dogs and other animals with fur or feathers (pet dander).
Besides making you miserable, hay fever can affect your performance at work or school and generally interfere with your life. But you don't have to put up with annoying symptoms. You can learn to avoid triggers and find the right treatment.
Hay fever signs and symptoms can include:
Your hay fever signs and symptoms may start or worsen at a particular time of year. Triggers include:
Signs and symptoms can be similar, so it can be difficult to tell which one you have.
|Signs and symptoms||Runny nose with thin, watery discharge; no fever||Runny nose with watery or thick yellow discharge; body aches; low-grade fever|
|Onset||Immediately after exposure to allergens||1-3 days after exposure to a cold virus|
|Duration||As long as you're exposed to allergens||3-7 days|
See your doctor if:
Many people â especially children â get used to hay fever symptoms, so they might not seek treatment until the symptoms become severe. But getting the right treatment might offer relief.
When you have hay fever, your immune system identifies a harmless airborne substance as harmful. Your immune system then produces antibodies to this harmless substance. The next time you come in contact with the substance, these antibodies signal your immune system to release chemicals such as histamine into your bloodstream, which cause a reaction that leads to the signs and symptoms of hay fever.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, take a medical history and possibly recommend one or both of the following tests:
Problems that may be associated with hay fever include:
There's no way to avoid getting hay fever. If you have hay fever, the best thing to do is to lessen your exposure to the allergens that cause your symptoms. Take allergy medications before you're exposed to allergens, as directed by your doctor.
While there isn't much evidence about how well they work, a number of people try alternative treatments for hay fever. These include:
Herbal remedies and supplements. Extracts of the shrub butterbur may help prevent seasonal allergy symptoms. If you do try butterbur, be sure to use a product that's labeled "PA-free," which indicates it's had potentially toxic substances removed.
There's some limited evidence that spirulina and Tinospora cordifolia also may be effective. Though their benefits are unclear, other herbal remedies for seasonal allergies include capsicum, honey, vitamin C and fish oil.
It's not possible to completely avoid allergens, but you can reduce your symptoms by limiting your exposure to them. If you know what you're allergic to, you can avoid your triggers.
The following can increase your risk of developing hay fever: