What is Hayfever?
Hayfever is an allergy (a sensitive reaction to basically harmless substances) to pollen from trees, grass or weeds. It is sometimes called allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the lining of the nasal passages).

How do you get Hayfever?
Allergies are extreme reactions to basically harmless substances. You get hayfever if you are one of a number of people whose body reacts to pollen in a different way to most (you are described as being sensitive to pollen). Hayfever comes on in the spring and summer when pollen levels are high.

How serious is Hayfever?
Symptoms include a running and congested nose and red, itchy eyes. Itching skin, dry throat and wheezing can also occur, and symptoms are worst when the amount of pollen in the air is highest.

How long does Hayfever last?
Hayfever is seasonal, occurring in spring (usually early May onwards) and summer. Symptoms may last several weeks but this depends on whether one or more types of pollen are the cause. There are many kinds of grasses and trees which can give rise to symptoms at different times of the season depending on the time of pollenation.

How is Hayfever treated?

  • Both mild hayfever, and that which occurs now and again (intermittent), can be treated using medicines called antihistamines. These work by blocking the action of a chemical called histamine that is released by the body during the inflammation (allergic) response. It is the main cause of symptoms in hayfever.  
  • Persistent symptoms and more severe disease are treated with anti-inflammatory medicines called steroids (of the glucocorticosteroid type), which often come in nasal sprays. These block the whole allergic response and are therefore more effective for those people who need a stronger medicine.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised:

Diseases and Conditions Center

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.