Symptoms and Signs of Hay Fever

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/5/2022

Doctor's Notes on Hay Fever

Hay fever (also termed allergic rhinitis) is a nonspecific somewhat misleading term (fever is not usually a symptom) that refers to the signs and symptoms many people develop with the change of seasons. Classic signs and symptoms of hay fever are itchy, puffy, and watery eyes plus a red, stuffy nose that appears at the change of seasons, especially when heavy concentrations of pollen and/or mold spores are airborne. Other signs and symptoms may include

  • sneezing,
  • bloodshot eyes,
  • fatigue,
  • ear stuffiness, and
  • difficulty sleeping.

The cause of hay fever is the body's overactive immune response to antigens on pollen, molds, or other airborne compounds that trigger the production of chemicals like histamine that produce symptoms and signs. These antigens can be eaten, swallowed, or contact mucus membranes where immune system cells recognize them as foreign substances and react.

What Is the Treatment for Hay Fever?

The first treatment is for patients to limit exposure to the many antigens that are airborne. If you have exposure to hay fever antigens, for many people, over-the-counter (OTC) medications (corticosteroids) in nasal sprays work well to control signs and symptoms. Some people may benefit by adding an OTC antihistamine while others may require prescription medicine; the following are examples of such medications (caregivers may recommend taking some OTCs in combination):

Prescription medications include the following:

Other treatments may include the following:

  • Allergy shots
  • Under-the-tongue allergy tablets
  • Sinus rinses: Use with caution, and carefully follow the directions for use.

Your allergy specialist can help design a treatment plan for your hay fever problems.

Must Read Articles:


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.