Hay fever can look a lot like the common cold. When symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing strike, you may naturally assume that you have a cold. 

Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a respiratory allergy that occurs when you inhale allergens floating in the air. Because some of the symptoms overlap, it’s easy to mistake hay fever symptoms for those of the common cold.  

Visiting an allergy specialist is the best way to find out if allergies are causing your symptoms. Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy specialist Ulrike Ziegner, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies, including allergic rhinitis. 

So, how do you know if that tickle in the back of your throat is due to an allergy? Take a few minutes to learn some of the telltale signs that you may have hay fever.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever affects more than 19 million adults and over 5 million children and teens in the United States. Despite its name, hay fever is unrelated to grass and hay allergy.

There are two types of hay fever: seasonal and perennial.

Seasonal hay fever

Seasonal hay fever often develops as a result of a pollen allergy. In fact, pollen is the most common trigger for seasonal allergies. Starting in the spring, plants release tiny grains to fertilize plants. Small and light, the pollen floats in the air, triggering allergy symptoms in people who are allergic. 

Pollen counts vary during the spring, summer, and fall. When pollen counts are high, symptoms tend to worsen. 

Perennial hay fever

Fungus spores, dust mites, and cat dander cause perennial hay fever, which occurs year round. These allergens are often found indoors. 

Why do I have hay fever?

If you have hay fever, it means that your immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances you inhale from the air. Allergens cause your body to release immune-related chemicals such as histamine and leukotrienes, which cause symptoms.

Symptoms of hay fever

Hay fever symptoms can range from a mild annoyance to feelings of complete misery. If you have hay fever, you may experience:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy, burning eyes
  • Itchy throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sneezing

If you have a condition such as asthma or eczema, you’re more likely to develop hay fever. Additionally, if you have a close relative with hay fever, you have a higher likelihood of having it too.

Is it hay fever or a cold?

A runny nose, nasal congestion, and an itchy throat are among the symptoms that could indicate a common cold or an allergy. However, other symptoms can help you differentiate between the conditions.

Suspect that you have a cold if your symptoms are accompanied by general body aches, fever, or sore throat. While hay fever may cause nasal congestion and a runny nose, respiratory allergies aren’t usually associated with fever and body aches. 

If your symptoms occur only in certain settings or during certain times of the year, it’s also more likely that you have allergies. 

If you suspect you may have allergies, it’s best to leave it to an expert to conduct a comprehensive evaluation and make a formal diagnosis.

Managing hay fever

Identifying the allergen causing your symptoms is the first step toward effectively managing your hay fever. This is done using allergy testing to detect the specific allergen that is sparking your body’s reaction.

Managing your hay fever may include taking medication such as antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, or anti-leukotrienes, as well as limiting your exposure to the offending allergen as much as possible. Dr. Ziegner creates an individualized treatment plan for you to follow that will relieve your symptoms so you feel better.

If you’re dealing with symptoms such as sneezing, watering eyes, and a runny nose, schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner to get an evaluation. To get started, call 310-504-3242 to speak with one of our knowledgeable team members. 

Call Us Text Us
Skip to content