Hay fever is not really a fever at all, but an allergic reaction with symptoms similar to those of the common cold.  Hay fever tends to kick up in the seasons of spring and autumn when the environment is full of pollens from flowering plants, grass, and trees.

Common signs of hay fever:

  • Runny or stuffed-up nose
  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Itching in the back of the mouth/throat
  • Pain in the sinus cavities
  • Reduced ability to smell or taste

Since hay fever is so similar to a cold, it can be hard to tell the difference.  Here are some tips for telling the two apart:

Hay Fever Symptoms: Nasal discharge from colds may be thick and yellow/green.  Discharge from hay fever tends to be clear and runny.  A low-grade fever indicates cold or some other illness—not hay fever.

Duration:  Colds usually linger from 3 days to a week.  Hay fever can last as long as offending allergens (such as pollens) are present in your environment.

Hay Fever Onset:  Hay fever usually starts right after you are exposed to pollens or other allergens (mold, pet dander, etc.)

Managing Hay Fever

Hay Fever Avoidance:  You can do your best to minimize exposure to allergens during high allergy seasons.  Limit outdoor activities and keep windows shut, even though the moderate temperatures may be tempting.  Avoidance is usually only minimally effective, though, because pollens are airborne.

Hay Fever Medications:  Another option is medications –either over-the-counter or prescription.   These can help take the edge off of symptoms and may be a good choice if you only have symptoms for a few months out of the year.

Immunotherapy:  Some people with allergies are candidates for allergy immunotherapy.  This judgment call can be made with the help of a physician and often centers on two criteria:  the duration and severity of your allergy symptoms.  As a general rule, if your discomfort from hay fever lasts for longer than a few months per year OR if your symptoms (whatever their duration) are miserable enough to cut markedly into your quality of life, consider talking with a physician about allergy immunotherapy.  The advantage of immunotherapy is that it doesn’t just treat the symptoms of allergy, it actually addresses the source of the problem, desensitizing the body to the allergens that lead to the initial allergic reaction.

Two popular types of immunotherapy are allergy shots and allergy drops.  Shots are given at the doctor’s office.  Drops can be taken at home or on-the-go because they have been shown to be safer than allergy shots.