Hay Fever

Signs & Symptoms   |    Causes   |    Treatment   |

Questions to Ask   |    Self-Care/Prevention

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Hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever. The medical term for hay fever is allergic rhinitis. It is most common in spring and fall when a lot of ragweed is in the air. Some people have hay fever all year, though.


Signs & Symptoms

•  Itchy or watery eyes.

•  Runny, itchy nose.

•  Congestion.

•  Sneezing.


Hay fever is a reaction of the upper respiratory tract to allergens.

Talk to your doctor if self-care measures do not help. He or she may prescribe:

•  Antihistamines. For best results, take the antihistamine 30 minutes before going outside. {Note: Some over-the-counter antihistamines can make you more drowsy than prescribed ones. Be careful when driving and operating machinery since some antihistamines can make you drowsy.}

•  A decongestant. {Note: Do not give antihistamines, decongestants, and other over-the-counter medicines for colds, coughs, and/or the flu to children less than 2 years old. For children 2 years old and older, follow their doctor’s advice.

•  A corticosteroid nasal spray and eye drops, cromolyn sodium, and oral corticosteroids.

•  Skin tests to find out what things you are allergic to.

•  Allergy shots.


Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

800.7.ASTHMA (727.8462)


It is best to take what your doctor advises instead of testing over-the-counter products on your own.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  If you are allergic to pollen and molds, let someone else do outside chores. Mowing the lawn or raking leaves can make you very sick.

•  Keep windows and doors shut and stay inside when the pollen count or humidity is high. Early morning is sometimes the worst.

•  Avoid tobacco smoke and other air pollutants.

•  Don’t have pets. If you have a pet, keep it out of the bedroom. When you can, keep the pet outdoors.

•  Use an air conditioner or air cleaner in your house, especially in the bedroom. Electronic air filters are better than mechanical ones. Clean the filter often. Or, try a doctor-approved air purifier, especially in the bedroom. Devices with HEPA filters can be very effective in cleaning indoor air.

To limit dust, mold, and pollen:

•  Put a plastic cover on your mattress or cover it completely with an allergen-free mattress cover.

•  Sleep with no pillow or with the kind your doctor or health care provider recommends. If you use a pillow, cover it with an allergen-free cover.

•  Don’t dry sheets and blankets outside.

•  Try not to have stuffed animals kept in the bedroom. If you must, have only one that can be washed. Wash it in hot water once a week.

•  Use curtains and rugs that can be washed often. Don’t use carpeting.

•  Dust and vacuum often. Wear a dust filter mask when you do.

•  Put an electronic air filter on your furnace or use portable air purifiers.

•  Shower or bathe and wash your hair after heavy exposure to pollen, dust, etc.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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