Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Allergic Rhinitis is the medical term for allergies that affect the nose. If your allergy symptoms occur at specific times of year (usually spring and/or fall), this is called "seasonal allergic rhinitis" and is often referred to as "hay fever". If you have allergy symptoms year-round, this is called "perennial allergic rhinitis".

Some common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and itching. Sometimes people develop a sore throat, cough, and/or headache and partially lose their senses of smell, taste, and hearing. Hay fever can also cause more general symptoms like fatigue.

Many times, allergic rhinitis is diagnosed as a common cold because the symptoms are similar. If your symptoms occur repeatedly throughout the year or at the same time every year, you may have an allergy.

What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis are caused by an allergic reaction to a variety of things, including pollen, dust, mold, and/or food. When a person with allergic rhinitis is exposed to an allergen, the allergen binds to the IgE antibodies on the mast cells and chemicals are released, causing the symptoms that can make us miserable. The nose is especially sensitive and reactive because it contains many of the mast cells that release histamines when triggered by the allergen.


Avoidance of triggers is the best treatment against allergic rhinitis. There are two types of medical treatments for allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines, decongestants, or other medications may be recommended to relieve allergic rhinitis symptoms. The second type of treatment, allergy shots (immunotherapy), has been proven highly successful in treating allergic rhinitis by building up tolerance to the offending allergens. (Read more about Allergy Shots.) If you suspect allergic rhinitis, see your allergy specialist. Skin testing can identify causes of allergic rhinitis and your doctor can recommend a treatment that is right for you.