Recent Blog Articles

Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)

March 19, 2019

What Is It?

Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is an allergy-related inflammation of the nasal passages, throat and eye membrane (conjunctiva), caused by sensitivity to airborne pollens and molds. These airborne pollens come from various species of trees, grasses, weeds and other plants whose pollens are carried by the wind rather than by insects. Because different types of pollen trigger symptoms in different people, each person's specific hay fever "season" is fairly predictable and is related to times when their allergy-triggering plant is in bloom. For example, for people who are allergic to tree pollens and who live in temperate North America, symptoms usually are worst from March through May, when trees are blossoming. June and July are peak months for people allergic to grasses, while people with ragweed allergies suffer the worst symptoms from mid-August through October. Since molds depend on damp, dark conditions, people who are allergic to molds tend to have the least predictable allergy season. They usually find that their symptoms are more related to warm, rainy weather. In the United States, this means summer and fall are peak times.

Hay fever and its sister ailment, perennial allergic rhinitis (a year-round sensitivity to animal dander, dust mites or cockroaches), are most common in people who have a family history of allergies or a personal history of allergy-related conditions, such as eczema and childhood asthma. Currently, about 20% of people in the United States suffer from either seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis. Although seasonal allergic rhinitis can affect people in all age groups, its symptoms generally peak during childhood and adolescence.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.