Hay Fever Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 08, 2020

Hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) is when you have an allergic response to something in the environment that can cause sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. Even though it’s called hay fever, you don’t need to be around hay to have it and you don’t get a fever. It’s most likely to strike when pollen ramps up in the spring and summer.

What Are the Symptoms of Hay Fever?

Hay fever can cause many symptoms, including:

  • Prolonged, sometimes violent sneezing

  • Itchy nose, throat, and roof of mouth

  • Stuffy, runny nose

  • Coughing

  • Watery, red itchy eyes

  • Head and nasal congestion

  • Ear pressure or fullness

  • Fatigue

  • Sneezing

You could have more serious symptoms, like:

  • Facial pain, around your forehead and temples

  • Headache

  • Loss of smell

If you also have asthma, you might:

  • Cough or wheeze

  • Feel like you can’t catch your breath

  • Feel like your chest is tight

Hay Fever vs. Common Cold Symptoms

It can be hard to tell if you have hay fever or a cold, since the symptoms can be similar. Although you might have symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing with both hay fever and a cold, with a cold, you might also have these symptoms:

  • Body aches

  • Low-grade fever

You won’t have a fever or body aches with hay fever. Coughing and having a sore throat is more common with colds than hay fever.

Colds also last about 3-7 days, whereas hay fever lasts however long you’re around the allergens. With hay fever, you might have symptoms for weeks or even months.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms become so severe that they stop you from your everyday activities

  • You can’t control it with over-the-counter medications

  • You get an infection in congested sinus cavities (you might have a fever, facial pain, postnasal drip, bad breath, and sinus or tooth pain or tenderness)

Show Sources


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Wilsom, A. American Journal of Medicine, March 1, 2004.  

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: “Hay Fever.” 

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Allergy."

Mayo Clinic: “Hay fever: Symptoms & Causes.” 

NHS: “Hay fever.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Allergic Rhinitis.”

National Institutes of Health: “Cold, Flu, or Allergy? Know the Difference for Best Treatment.”

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