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Hay Fever

Is this your symptom?

  • Nasal allergies, allergic rhinitis, or hay fever

Some Basics...

  • Allergic rhinitis is the medical term for hay fever.
  • Hay fever is an allergic reaction of the nose and sinuses to substances in the air. These include pollen, mold, dust and pet dander. Hay fever is a type of nasal allergy.
  • Many people think that they have hay fever. Seeing a doctor is important if symptoms are more than mild. A doctor can confirm that it really is hay fever.
  • Many people also get watery, itchy eyes with hay fever. These are symptoms of eye allergies (allergic conjunctivitis).
  • It is interesting to know people do not get fevers from hay fever.


  • Clear runny nose with sneezing, sniffing, and itching
  • Itchy, red, and watery eyes
  • No fever

Types of Hay Fever

There are two types of hay fever.

  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis: hay fever is a term for seasonal allergies due to pollens. People notice that their symptoms are worse during certain seasons of the year. These people most often have an allergy to pollen, grasses, or trees. Symptoms may be worse in the spring, summer, or fall. Some people may have symptoms in all three seasons. Hay fever is not specifically an allergy to hay. People with hay fever do not have fevers.
  • Perennial allergic rhinitis: people with this allergy may have symptoms all year. The symptoms may be present all the time or come and go. They often have an allergy to dust mites, mold, mildew, feathers, or animal dander.

Illnesses that Can Be Confused with Hay Fever

There are other illnesses that have nasal symptoms like those of hay fever. These include:

  • Viral rhinitis: this is the common cold. Runny or stuffy nose is the main symptom. The nasal discharge may be clear, cloudy, yellow, or green. The person also often has fever, muscle aches, sore throat, or a headache.
  • Bacterial and viral sinusitis: a more common term for this is "sinus infection." People may have yellow or green nasal secretions for at least 10 days. They may also have sinus pain and a fever that comes and goes.
  • Rhinitis medicamentosa: this is from overuse of over-the-counter decongestant nose drops. It can cause the nose to get even stuffier than it was before. This most often happens after using nose drops for longer than 5 days.
  • Occupational exposure: irritants in the air at work can cause nasal problems.

When to Call for Hay Fever

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Lots of coughing
  • Lots of yellow or green discharge from nose lasts more than 3 days
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Hay Fever has never been diagnosed by a doctor
  • Moderate to severe symptoms keep you from working or going to school after taking antihistamines for more than 2 days
  • Runny nose lasts more than 10 days
  • Year-round symptom of nasal allergies
  • Snoring most nights of the month
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • You only get nasal allergies at certain times of the year and allergies have been diagnosed by a doctor

Care Advice

Treatment for Hay Fever

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction of the nose and sinuses to substances in the air. These include pollen, mold, and dust. Hay fever is a type of nasal allergy.
    • You should see a doctor if your symptoms are more than mild.
    • You can treat hay fever at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Wash Off Pollen Daily: Remove pollen from the body by taking a shower. You should shower before you go to bed.
  3. Avoid Pollen:
    • Stay indoors on windy days.
    • Try to keep your windows closed at home. Use an air conditioner.
    • Use a high efficiency house air filter (HEPA or electrostatic).
    • Keep windows closed in your car and turn the AC on recirculate.
    • Avoid playing with outdoor dogs.
  4. For a Stuffy Nose - Use Nasal Washes:
    • Salt water washes are a good way to treat a stuffy nose. You can pour, spray, or squirt salt water into your nose. Then let the water run back out.
    • How It Helps: The salt water rinses out mucus, dust, and allergens. It also keeps the nose moist.
    • Methods: There are a few ways to do nasal washes. You can use a saline nasal spray bottle (sold over-the-counter), a rubber ear syringe, a medical syringe without the needle or a Neti Pot.
    Step-By-Step Instructions:
    • Step 1: Lean over a sink.
    • Step 2: Gently squirt or spray warm salt water into one of your nostrils.
    • Step 3: Some of the water may run into the back of your throat. Spit this out. If you swallow the salt water it will not hurt you.
    • Step 4: Blow your nose to clean out the water and mucus.
    • Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 for the other nostril. Do this 2 or 3 times a day if it helps you.
    How to Make Salt Water Nasal Wash:
    • You can make your own saline nasal wash.
    • Put 1 cup (8 oz; 240 mL) of water in a clean container. You should use bottled or previously boiled water.
    • Add ¾ teaspoon of non-iodized salt to the water.
    • Add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to the water.
  5. Antihistamine Medicine for Hay Fever Symptoms:
    • Antihistamines help with hay fever symptoms like sneezing, itching, and runny nose.
    • During pollen season you may need to take this drug every day. It can help keep your allergies under control.
    • You can take one of the following drugs for hay fever: diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-trimeton), cetirizine (Zyrtec, Reactine), or loratadine (Claritin, Alavert).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your hay fever feel better.
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-trimeton, Chlor-tripolon) may make you feel drowsy. Loratadine and cetirizine do not cause you to feel as sleepy. They are also long-acting so they last 24 hours.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  6. Nasal Decongestant Nose Drops for Stuffy Nose:
    • Antihistamines do not help stuffy noses. Decongestant nose drops do. They can help you breathe better.
    • Phenylephrine nose drops (Neo-Synephrine): These are sold OTC. Blow your nose to clean out the mucus before using. Spray each nostril once. Wait one minute and then spray a second time.
    • Caution: Do not take nasal decongestants if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or an enlarged prostate. Do not take these drugs if you are pregnant. Do not take these drugs if you have used a MAO inhibitor in the past 2 weeks. MAO inhibitors include isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or tranylcypromine (Parnate).
    • Do not use these drugs for more than 3 days.
    • Read all package instructions.
  7. For Eye Allergies: Wash pollen off your face and eyelids. Then put a cold wet compress on your face and eyelids. Antihistamines will most often help you feel better.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Using antihistamines for 2 days and symptoms are not better
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Neti Pot for Sinus Symptoms

  1. Neti Pot
    • The Neti Pot is a small pot with a thin spout. It looks like a small tea pot.
    • How It Helps: You can use the Neti Pot for a nasal wash. The salt water rinses out mucus, dust, and allergens. It also keeps the nasal cavity moist.
    • Indications: Neti Pots are used to help colds, sinus infections, and nasal allergies.
    • Adverse Reactions: None. Though, not all people like the feeling of pouring water into their nose.
    • See an Internet videos for instructions: Neti Pot on YouTube.
  2. Neti Pot STEP-BY-STEP Instructions:
    • Step 1: Follow the directions on the salt package to make warm salt water.
    • Step 2: Lean forward and turn your head to one side over the sink. Keep your forehead slightly higher than your chin.
    • Step 3: Gently insert the spout of the Neti Pot into the higher nostril. Put it far enough so that it forms a comfortable seal.
    • Step 4: Raise the Neti Pot slowly. The salt water flows in through your higher nostril and out of the lower nostril. Breathe through your mouth.
    • Step 5: When the Neti Pot is empty, blow your nose. This will clean out the water and mucus.
    • Step 6: Some of the water may run into the back of your throat. Spit this out. If you swallow the salt water, it will not hurt you.
    • Step 7: Refill the Neti Pot and repeat on the other side. Blow your nose again. Blow out all of the salt water and mucus.
    How to Make Saline (Salt Water) Nasal Wash:
    • You can make your own saline nasal wash.
    • Add ½ tsp of table salt to 1 cup (8 oz.; 240 mL) of warm water.

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 9/21/2019 1:00:23 AM
Last Updated: 3/14/2019 1:00:24 AM

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