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Hay fever

Hay fever is often accompanied by sneezing and an itchy and/or a runny nose. Red, watery eyes that itch are also typical symptoms. Hay fever is caused by pollen grains, a substance found in trees, flowers, grains and grasses. Various anti-allergy medications are available to treat hay fever, and antihistamines are available on prescription.

Medically reviewed by G.L. Merkens on December 17, 2018


  • Information

    What is hay fever?

    Hay fever sufferers are hypersensitive to certain substances – for example, the pollen of flowers, trees, grasses and grains. When a sufferer comes into contact with these substances, the body starts to produce antibodies which cause an immune response.

    Hay fever or any other allergy causes a strong immune response to stimuli which are not actually harmful. An allergic reaction usually occurs immediately after contact with the stimulus, but can also occur some hours afterwards.

    Inhaling pollen causes mucous membranes in the eyes, and the nasal- and throat cavities to become irritated. This then causes hay fever symptoms. Hay fever complaints are usually more prevalent, and more serious in warm, dry weather.

    What are the symptoms?

    Pollen causes mucous membranes in the nose and eyes to become irritated. Hay fever symptoms are similar to cold symptoms. Hay fever symptoms include the following features:

    • Runny nose (which becomes stuffy)
    • Tickling cough
    • Sneezing
    • Swollen, red eyes
    • Itchy, watery eyes
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Burning throat

    What are the possible causes?

    Hay fever is triggered by certain allergens, which cause an allergic reaction. The dominant trigger for hay fever is the weather, and dry, warm spells are not particularly pleasant for hay fever sufferers.

    The classic form of hay fever is caused by grass pollen in the period from May to August. Yet hay fever can also occur outside this period. When these complaints occur will depend on the type of pollen to which the sufferer is allergic.

    Heredity can also be a factor. There is a greater chance of getting hay fever if other family members suffer from the complaint. Asthma and eczema are also associated with hay fever.

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    A diagnosis will be based on a combination of several factors: Itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose, as well as other specific features (itching and redness of the nose and eyes, etc.). If these factors are present, the diagnosis is clear. This then determines what treatment is needed. An additional questionnaire may be required to capture further details.

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