Despite its name, hay fever doesn’t cause a fever, and exposure to hay doesn’t cause symptoms. Medically known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever received its name in the 19th century when symptoms were mistakenly attributed to the smell of hay. 

Because symptoms can overlap with those of the common cold, hay fever can go unrecognized. If you’ve recently received a hay fever diagnosis, or if you suspect that you suffer from it, here’s what Dr. Ulrike Ziegner at Riviera Allergy Medical Center would like you to know.

Just what is hay fever?

Hay fever occurs when your immune system overreacts to substances that shouldn’t cause problems. Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy nose
  • Sinus pressure

How does hay fever impact daily life?

Hay fever symptoms can vary from a mild annoyance to severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Nasal pressure, pain, sneezing, and coughing can prevent you from getting a sound sleep. You can find yourself groggy and tired during the day as a result.

Many people with moderate to severe symptoms report that hay fever can interfere in their productivity at work and school, as well, and many sufferers say that their symptoms make certain activities less enjoyable.

What triggers hay fever symptoms?

Recognizing your triggers and limiting your exposure to them is vital in controlling hay fever symptoms. The most common allergens that trigger hay fever symptoms are:

  • Pollen (Trees, Grasses, Weeds)
  • Dust mites, cockroaches
  • Pet dander, saliva, urine, hair
  • Mold

Symptoms typically begin right after exposure to an allergen. After breathing in the allergen, the body starts an immune reaction that involves inflammatory chemicals.

Outdoor vs. indoor allergens

Your symptoms may vary depending on the type of allergies you have. People who are allergic to tree pollen tend to have seasonal symptoms that start when pollen levels peak in the early spring. Symptoms triggered by weed pollen are more common in the fall.

If you’re allergic to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, cockroaches, and pet dander, you may experience symptoms year-round.

Nasal irritants can make hay fever symptoms worse

If you have hay fever, common airborne irritants can make your symptoms worse. Watching out for cigarette smoke, wood smoke, irritating fumes and fragrances can help you keep your hay fever symptoms in check. Keeping a daily journal and recording your symptoms can help you hone in on your triggers and determine what makes your symptoms worse. However, allergy testing is a better way of identifying allergens. 

Treatment for hay fever

Your doctor may perform tests to determine the treatment that is best for you. A skin prick test is a common way to get to the bottom of what you’re allergic to. It involves introducing several substances into your skin through a prick to see if your body reacts.

Antihistamines, which are a common treatment for hay fever, work short term by blocking histamine in your body, a substance that plays a key role in your immune system’s response to foreign substances. Blocking histamine can relieve sneezing, itching, and other symptoms. It does prevent allergy symptoms efficiently for a limited time, but can cause drowsiness. Other treatments, such as steroid nasal sprays, may also help.


Immunotherapy is a treatment that changes the way your immune system responds to allergens. It teaches the immune system to tolerate allergens by gradually increasing the doses of substances you’re allergic to. Over time, your body becomes less sensitive to the allergens. Immunotherapy can be incredibly useful for people with hay fever and allergic asthma because it will reduce inflammation.

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor if you have symptoms of hay fever and are seeking a diagnosis and treatment. You should also see a doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with hay fever and your symptoms have not responded to over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and nasal steroids. Learning the exact cause of your allergy is another good reason to see a specialist. Anyone with moderate or severe symptoms should see a doctor. Left untreated, symptoms can worsen.

To get to the bottom of your allergies, book an appointment online or over the phone with Riviera Allergy Medical Center today.

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