Allergic Rhinitis: A Guide to "Hay Fever"

Health Tips
3 mins
Allergic Rhinitis: A Guide to "Hay Fever"

“Hay fever” may be one of the most misleading terms in our medical vocabulary. For one, the condition known as hay fever is not usually caused by or related to hay at all. Second, hay fever does not cause a fever. The correct medical term for the condition commonly known as hay fever is “allergic rhinitis.”

Allergic rhinitis is fairly common, affecting about one-third of the general population. But if it doesn’t involve hay and doesn’t cause a fever, then what is allergic rhinitis, exactly? 

Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms and Causes

The most common allergic rhinitis symptoms are a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes. Some people may also experience mild to moderate fatigue if their rhinitis symptoms are severe enough.

Most people think of allergic rhinitis as a seasonal allergy. While this is true for many cases, not all allergic rhinitis is seasonal. Allergic rhinitis can be broken up into three categories based on its causes: seasonal rhinitis, perennial rhinitis, and non-allergic rhinitis.

Seasonal Rhinitis

Seasonal rhinitis is the name for common seasonal allergies that affect millions of people annually. Multiple seasons can trigger seasonal rhinitis. Individuals may suffer from seasonal allergies in the spring, summer, early fall, or a combination of these seasons.

This is because seasonal allergic rhinitis is triggered by the body overreacting to certain environmental factors. Some people’s bodies overreact to the presence of pollen from flowers in the spring. Others might be triggered by mold spores in the summer or fall. Many different natural molecules come in seasonal waves that can trigger allergic rhinitis.

Perennial Rhinitis

Perennial rhinitis is caused by irritants. People may encounter these irritants year-round. Common irritants associated with perennial rhinitis are pet dander, dust mites, and mold. Perennial rhinitis symptoms tend to be worse indoors or in confined spaces with limited air circulation. However, outdoor irritants may trigger allergic rhinitis symptoms as well.

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Some people may also experience rhinitis symptoms from other non-allergic irritants. Common irritants in this category include cigarette smoke and certain types of perfumes or strong fragrances.

Allergic Rhinitis Treatment

Whether seasonal or perennial, all forms of allergic rhinitis can be treated. There are a few different allergic rhinitis treatment strategies. Medications and immunotherapy treatment can directly combat allergic rhinitis symptoms in patients. For those not receiving such treatment, avoidance is an effective way to deal with allergic rhinitis.


Avoidance treatment relies on identifying what triggers your allergic reactions. Knowing what causes your allergic rhinitis enables you to avoid coming into contact with your triggers when possible. For instance, staying indoors with all windows shut during high-pollen seasons can reduce seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms.


Medication is the most common form of allergic rhinitis treatment. Two of the most popular forms of rhinitis treatment are antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids. These medications are often highly effective, but may come with side effects. Intranasal corticosteroids may cause irritation or nose bleeds, for instance. Some older antihistamines are also known to cause drowsiness.

You should always discuss medication options with your allergist before deciding which treatment is best for you.

Immunotherapy, or Allergy Shots

Another effective form of allergic rhinitis treatment is immunotherapy. Most commonly, this refers to allergy shots. This is a long-term treatment plan prescribed and facilitated by a certified allergist. Allergy shots work like a vaccine against allergens. When a patient receives allergy shots, their allergist will inject small doses of an allergen into their body. This gradually builds up a tolerance to the allergen, thus reducing the severity and frequency of symptoms.

To learn more about allergic rhinitis treatment, read about BASS Medical Group’s allergy and immunology treatment services.