Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an allergic condition characterized by irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

Hay fever is most common in people with a family history of similar complaints or a personal history of eczema, hives (urticaria) and/or asthma.

What causes hay fever?

Some people's bodies produce an excessive amount of histamine as a result of inhalation of dust or pollen from trees, grass, flowers, weeds, mushroom spores or animal hair.

Histamine is the chemical that produces the symptoms of hay fever.

Symptoms of hay fever

Symptoms of hay fever include:
  • Runny, itchy, stuffy nose;
  • Sneezing; and
  • Itchy and watery eyes.
Patients may also complain of ear fullness, sinus congestion, and a cough due to postnasal drip.

Hay fever treatment

The ideal treatment for Hay fever is avoidance of the allergen. However, since this is not always possible, a variety of antihistamines, decongestants, and intranasal steroids may be prescribed.
Topical decongestants are effective, but should not be used for longer than three days to avoid rebound swelling and rhinitis.
Immunologic therapy, or hyposensitization, is useful in individuals who do not respond to the above treatments. They are given small, gradually increasing inoculations of extracts of the allergen to which they are sensitive. These injections are given weekly, usually for one year with maintenance therapy injections every 2 to 4 weeks for 3 to 5 years.
About 80 percent of patients benefit from hyposensitization.