Hay fever (pollen allergy) is one of the most common kinds of allergies. About 35 million Americans suffer from hay fever. Pollen is made by trees, grasses, and weeds. During the spring, summer, and fall some plants release pollen into the air you breathe. Your symptoms might be different at different times of the year. It all depends on the kinds of plants that grow where you live and what allergies you have.

If you suffer from sneezing, runny noses, or itchy eyes, you might think you have a cold. Instead, it could be an allergy. When you come across something that you are allergic to, your body reacts by producing chemicals. These chemicals cause the sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. People can be allergic to many different things, such as

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dandruff
  • Mold
  • Foods Drugs


Hay fever symptoms are similar to many cold symptoms. These include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or clogged nose
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, swollen eyes

The following table can help you distinguish between hay fever and a cold

  Hay Fever Colds
Signs Signs can include running or stuffed nose, sneezing, wheezing, itchy and watery eyes. Signs can include fever, aches and pains stuffed nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Warning Time Symptoms begin right away. Symptoms usually take a few days to start.
Duration Symptoms last as long as you are around the allergen Symptoms should clear up within a week.


Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, especially about when you have them and whether they occur outdoors or indoors. Your doctor also will ask about your family history of allergies and your personal history of allergy-related conditions, including eczema, hives and asthma.

Your doctor will make the diagnosis of hay fever based on your allergy history, the timing and appearance of your symptoms and the results of your physical examination. During your physical examination, your doctor will check for signs of inflammation in your eyes, nose and throat. Typically, the lining of the nose is swollen and pale pink or bluish, though it can be red. The doctor often looks for other signs of allergic rhinitis, such as dark circles under the eyes (called allergic shiners), resulting from chronic sinus congestion, wrinkles under the eyes as a result of chronic puffiness around the eyes, and a crease across the nose from frequently wiping it and pushing it upward.

To identify the specific allergen (allergy-triggering substance) that is triggering your hay fever, your doctor may refer you to an allergist, who can do skin testing. In skin testing, a small amount of a specific allergen is scratched, pricked or injected into the skin. Results are available in 10 to 20 minutes.

Blood tests also can be done to measure eosinophils (a type of white blood cell that increases in number during allergy seasons) or levels of IgE, an allergy-inducing antibody. An elevated eosinophil count or IgE level tells the doctor that there is an allergic response, while skin tests provide more specific information about what the person it allergic to. Blood tests are most helpful when skin testing cannot be done, such as when someone has severe eczema.


Your doctor can help you decide what to do. You can:

  • Avoid the things that cause your symptoms.
  • Use medicines.
  • Get allergy shots.

Allergy shots contain small amounts of what you are allergic to. At first, shots may be given every week to lessen your symptoms. The shots are usually continued for 3 to 5 years.

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