Hay Fever and Other Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies occur at the same time of the year every year, if you continue to live in the same part of the country. Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) is the most common seasonal allergy.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Itchy, watery eyes.
- Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose.
- Temporary loss of smell.
- Headache and fatigue.
- Dark circles under the eyes ("allergic shiners").
- Drainage from the nose down the back of the throat (postnasal drip).
- Sore throat or coughing.
How can you help prevent seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, are often caused by exposure to pollen. You can reduce your exposure to pollen by:
- Keeping your house and car windows closed.
- Limiting the time you spend outside when pollen counts are high (during midday and afternoon).
- Wearing a pollen mask or dust mask if you need to mow the lawn.
- Limiting your mowing tasks if you can.
- Rinsing your eyes with cool water or saline eyedrops to remove clinging pollen after you come indoors.
- Taking a shower and changing your clothes after you work or play outside.
How can you treat seasonal allergies?
The following home treatment measures may help relieve your symptoms:
- Clean the inside of your nose with salt water to clear a stuffy nose.
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier in the bedroom and take hot showers to help clear a stuffy nose.
- If your nose is red and raw from rubbing, put petroleum jelly on the sore area.
- Use over-the-counter allergy medicine to help your symptoms. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- To relieve a stuffy nose, use a steroid nasal spray (such as Nasacort). A steroid nasal spray can also help with red, itchy, watery eyes.
- Another way to relieve a stuffy nose is a nasal or oral decongestant (such as Afrin or Sudafed PE). Decongestants may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems.
- For itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; or a runny, itchy nose, try a nonsedating over-the-counter antihistamine, like fexofenadine (such as Allegra) or loratadine (such as Claritin). Older antihistamines, like chlorpheniramine (such as Chlor-Trimeton) and diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl), are less expensive but can make you feel sleepy or tired. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
- To help relieve pain, try acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
If your symptoms still bother you, ask your doctor about prescription nasal antihistamines. Or ask if immunotherapy might help you. For this treatment, you get allergy shots or use pills that have a small amount of certain allergens in them. Your body "gets used to" the allergen, so you react less to it over time. This kind of treatment may help prevent or reduce some allergy symptoms.
Current as of: February 10, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rohit K Katial MD - Allergy and Immunology