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What is Hay Fever?


What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction that occurs in the late summer and early fall. Symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and fatigue. These symptoms can be accompanied by cough and wheezing.

The name “Hay fever” originates from symptoms that occur during the time of year when farmers harvest and bale hay. This is typically in the late summer and early fall. The name “Hay fever” is a misnomer in that baled hay is usually not the cause of symptoms. Instead, plants that pollinate during the hay baling season are the culprits. These plants are weeds including Ragweed and Mugwort. These weeds use the wind for pollination. Their pollen grains become airborne and can travel for many miles. These pollen grains induce allergic symptoms when they come in contact with a person’s eyes, nose, or lungs.

How do I know if I have Hay fever?

You may have Hay fever if your allergic symptoms worsen during the months of August, September, and October. Symptoms improve after the first hard frost of the year. The diagnosis can be confirmed by an allergist by performing allergy tests that identify sensitivity to weed pollens.

What can I do about my Hay fever?

Symptoms are reduced by minimizing time outdoors. Windows in your house should be closed. Air conditioning is helpful and can remove pollen particles from indoor air. Over the counter antihistamines can treat the majority of symptoms. Symptoms of cough and wheezing are more concerning and should be addressed by a doctor. Patients whose symptoms are not relieved by medications may benefit from allergen immunotherapy or “allergy shots”. Immunotherapy reduces the body’s allergic response to allergens and can be a cure for many patients.