Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms related to an immune response to allergens that are present in the air. 

When these particles enter your nose during your regular breathing, the immune system reacts and sets off a chain of events that you experience in the form of symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion.

Allergy and immunology specialist Ulrike Ziegner, MD, at Riviera Allergy Medical Center understands the toll hay fever can take on your daily life. While some people experience only mild symptoms, others deal with bothersome issues that disrupt their daily lives to varying degrees.

If you’re struggling with allergic rhinitis, visiting an allergy specialist is one of the best decisions you can make toward getting relief. If you suspect that you may have hay fever, take a moment to learn more about some of the most common signs and symptoms. 

What causes hay fever?

The term hay fever is a misnomer; it doesn’t involve hay or fever. Allergic rhinitis happens when you breathe in allergens that trigger your immune system to release chemicals like histamine. This causes inflammation of the nasal passages and other characteristic symptoms. 

The most common allergens that trigger hay fever include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Cockroach droppings
  • Saliva from certain animals and bugs

It’s possible to have an immune response to just about any inhaled substance, but these allergens account for most cases of hay fever. 

What are the signs and symptoms of hay fever?

It’s important to know that symptoms of hay fever vary greatly from person to person. That’s why it’s always best to seek evaluation by an allergy specialist, instead of relying on symptoms to self-diagnose. 

Some of the most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Nasal congestion
  • Repeat sinus infections
  • Coughing
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes

Hay fever symptoms may occur seasonally or year-round.

Diagnosing hay fever

When you visit Riviera Allergy Medical Center for evaluation, Dr. Ziegner takes a detailed medical history and performs a physical exam. Plan on discussing your symptoms and asking any questions you may have. 

Dr. Ziegner performs allergy testing to determine what allergens are causing your hay fever. The information from skin tests or blood tests is used along with your medical history and other information to make a diagnosis. 

Hay fever treatment

It’s much more difficult to avoid inhaled allergens than it is other types of allergens, such as foods. The goal of hay fever treatment is to provide relief from symptoms. Several medications can help to reduce hay fever symptoms. The following are common drug therapies. 


This class of medications blocks histamine receptors, so histamines cannot attach to them which reduces symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Antihistamines work best when taken prior to allergen exposure and are less efficacious with chronic use.  Be aware of side effect, such as dryness (eyes, mouth, skin) and drowsiness.

Steroid nasal sprays

These sprays reduce the release of inflammatory substances that lead to symptoms like nasal congestion. 


These medications block inflammatory mediators called leukotrienes to reduce nasal and chest congestion. 

Anticholinergic nasal sprays

These sprays block the release of chemicals associated with a runny nose, but can result in nose bleeds. 


Allergy immunotherapy changes the way your body responds to allergens. This is a good option if your hay fever isn’t adequately controlled with medication and lifestyle changes. 

Immunotherapy involves injecting a small amount of an allergen in gradually increasing doses over a period of time. Patients typically receive weekly shots, followed by monthly maintenance shots. 

Help for hay fever

Hay fever can make life feel miserable. Constant sneezing, coughing, and itchy and watery eyes can get in the way of doing the things you enjoy, and even interfere with your productivity at work or school. Fortunately, hay fever is treatable. 

Scheduling an allergy consultation is the first step on the road to achieving relief. To get started, call our Redondo Beach office to schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is standing by. 

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