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Do I Have Hay Fever Or Allergies?

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Last updated: October 30, 2023
Kelly K. Boyd, MD
Medically reviewed by
Kelly K. Boyd, MD

Are you sneezing all the time? Do your eyes itch? Perhaps your mouth or skin also are itchy. If you answered yes, it is likely that you have a medical condition known as allergic rhinitis. Don’t panic, allergic rhinitis is just a medical term for the common affliction known as hay fever. In fact, estimates are that 40 to 60 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis or hay fever.

Hay fever acts up when the immune system is sensitized and overreacts to a stimulus in the environment that most other folks are not bothered by.

Hay Fever Facts

Hay fever is a strange name for a medical condition that:

  1. Doesn’t require you to be exposed to hay to have hay fever; and
  2. Most people never have a fever when they have a hay fever attack

Hay fever is an allergic disorder that affects people who are sensitive to pollen, dust, dander, and other proteins. There are two kinds of hay fever:

  1. Seasonal hay fever occurs during the time of year when certain plants are in bloom and pollinating; and
  2. Perennial hay fever occurs all year long.

Folks with seasonal hay fever can have reactions from spring through autumn but are symptom-free during the winter. Many are only affected during one or two seasons. Less fortunate are those with perennial hay fever as they never get complete relief from symptoms.

Hay Fever Triggers

Surprisingly, hay fever has lots of triggers and most of them have nothing to do with hay. They are:

  • Allergens found outside like grass pollens, tree pollens, and weed pollens
  • Indoor allergens such as hair and dander from pets, mold, and dust mites
  • Irritants to the respiratory system including diesel exhaust, cigarette smoke, and perfume

Hay Fever Symptoms

Speaking of symptoms, do you know the symptoms of hay fever? Following is a list of hay fever symptoms.

  • Sneezing that is prolonged and may be violent at times
  • Painful and itchy nose, throat, and roof of the mouth
  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Postnasal drip that makes an allergic person cough
  • Eyes that are itchy and watery
  • Nasal and head congestion
  • Pressure or fullness in the ears
  • Tiredness

Hay Fever Treatment

The best treatment is to avoid triggers. But, that means isolating yourself on a desert island.

Fortunately, many people who suffer from hay fever can get relief from modern over-the-counter medications. Many forms of this medication come as generics and costs are small. These medications are known as antihistamines that block the effects of a chemical released in the body called histamine. Histamine is released into the body when a person is having an allergic reaction. Antihistamines prevent histamines from activating thereby reducing allergy symptoms. This medication comes as pills, nasal sprays, and decongestion pills.

First-generation antihistamines are sedating and may cause drowsiness. The newer, or second generation antihistamines are non-sedating with less chance of patients becoming drowsy.

When It’s Time To See A Doctor

Contact a board-certified allergist if…

  1. Over-the-counter medications cannot control the hay fever
  2. Symptoms are severe and prevent a person from leading a normal life.
  3. A person suffers infections due to congestion in sinus cavities, known as sinusitis which is characterized by facial pain, fever, bad breath, tooth pain, and bad breath.

For more information about allergy treatment and prevention contact any of the 15 Charlotte NC offices of the Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. The centers are staffed by allergists that are board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Contact Us

To schedule or request an appointment with one of our physicians, please call 704-372-7900