Allergic Rhinitis (“Hay Fever”)

“Hay fever” doesn’t always have to do with hay and it doesn’t cause a fever. More formally known as allergic rhinitis, this allergic response is caused by allergens such as pollen, dust or pet dander. This common condition causes symptoms similar to a cold.

Common Causes

Allergies are your immune system’s response to the body’s contact with certain foreign substances. It treats the object like “the enemy,” producing special antibodies to recognize and respond aggressively to the enemy later. The next time you encounter that substance, your immune system recognizes it and activates cells in your body to disable it. These cells release a chemical called histamine, which may cause inflammation and other allergy symptoms.

Your body can routinely handle a certain amount of a specific allergen. However, too much exposure and your body will attack the substance. Allergies can become less severe or even subside with age while others become more noticeable or worsen with repeated exposures.

Common allergens are:

  • Pollens
  • Household allergens (dust mites, pet dander, etc.)
  • Molds


Your symptoms may develop at various times during the year, depending on which allergens are present during that season. Hay fever is often confused with the common cold because of the nature of its symptoms. As the seasons change, be careful to notice if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache

Treatment Options

If the use of an over-the-counter medication such as an antihistamine doesn’t relieve your allergy symptoms, make an appointment to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT). They will most likely recommend one of the following treatment methods to significantly reduce your body’s reaction to allergens:

  • Eye drops: to help relieve eyes of itchiness or redness caused by hay fever
  • Nasal decongestants: to help clear a stuffed nose caused by hay fever
  • Corticosteroid tablets: used for short-term relief of severe symptoms
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops: used for their anti-inflammatory effect
  • Immunotherapy: your body is slowly introduced to an allergen through a tablet, drop, or shot, allowing your body to get used to it, reducing your immune response and leaving you with few or no symptoms