Hay Fever


Hay Fever is an allergic reaction causing inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose. It is also called Allergic Rhinitis. 1

Hay Fever results when nasal passages are exposed to an allergy-causing substance (allergen). The membranes release large amounts of histamine, which causes swelling and inflammation in the area. 2 Hay Fever can be grouped into two categories: perennial and seasonal.

Perennial rhinitis occurs all year round. It results from exposure to an allergen encountered every day, such as animal dander, industrial fumes, cigarette smoke, cosmetic sprays, household cleaners and dust mite. 3

Seasonal rhinitis is caused by pollens breathed in from the air. These may come from trees, plants, flowers, grasses, mould, fungi or weeds. 4 The incidence of Hay Fever can vary widely depending on the plants present in a particular geographical location. Symptoms disappear when the offending substance is not producing spores or pollen, usually the colder months of the year.

Hay Fever tends to run in families. It is not contagious, but may occur more often in patients with asthma, excema, otitis media, sinusitis and nasal polyps. 5

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms begin immediately after exposure to the allergen and may include: 6 - Itchy nose, throat, eyes and roof of the mouth.

  • Watery eyes.
  • Sneezing. 
  • Clear, watery nasal discharge (thick or green nasal discharge may indicate a bacterial infection).
  • Occasionally, frontal headaches and irritability.
  • Coughing and asthmatic wheezing may occur with prolonged exposure.
  • Loss of taste and smell. 7 - Blocked nose.
  • Post nasal drip.
  • Allergy testing may be required to identify the allergen. Skin tests or blood tests can be performed. Your Doctor will arrange these if necessary.
  • Avoidance of the allergen is the first priority. Limit exposure to smoke, fumes, sprays and cleaning products. See the Dust Mite topic for information on reducing dust mites in your home.
  • Where avoidance is difficult, such as with plants and grasses, medical treatment may be necessary. 8 Antihistamines are used to reduce the symptoms. Desensitisation programs can be used to correct the immune system response and reduce the severity of the reaction. 9 Steroid nasal sprays may also be suggested for long-term use.
  • Ask your Doctor or Pharmacist to explain to you the difference between a steroid nasal sprays and a decongestant. 10 


Diet Hints
  • Dairy foods may worsen allergic symptoms in some people. It may be of benefit to avoid dairy products while suffering from Hay Fever 11.
  • Food allergy may contribute to allergic symptoms in some individuals. Cow's milk, wheat, gluten, citrus fruits, peanuts and eggs are common culprits. Ask your Dietitian or Doctor for advice about identifying food allergies.
  • Increase onions and garlic in the diet. Garlic may help maintain healthy immune function. Both garlic and onions also contain sulphur compounds, which assist in breaking up mucus.
  • Fluids are needed to prevent dehydration. A surprising amount of fluids can be lost from the eyes and nose during Hay Fever.
  • See the Healthy Eating Diet on the HealthPoint.


Vitamins and minerals may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate.

  • Vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C with bioflavonoids and vitamin E may support the immune system and reduce allergies 12.
  • Zinc may support the immune system and reduce allergic symptoms 13.
  • Echinacea, garlic and golden seal are thought to have anti-bacterial properties, as well as supporting immune function 14.
  • Horseradish & Fenugreek may help reduce mucus, swelling and allergic symptoms. 15
Pharmacist's Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Antihistamines are the first medication of choice for Hay Fever. There are many types available, and they may come as nasal sprays, tablets, eye drops or syrups. Ask your Pharmacist for a suitable product.
  2. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are often prescribed. Ask your Pharmacist for advice concerning the long-term use of corticosteroids.
  3. Face masks can be used to reduce exposure to allergens, particularly when outdoors. Your Pharmacist can supply these.
  4. Eucalyptus oil cleaning products are recommended to reduce dust mites in the home. 17
  5. Anti-Smoking products can help reduce cravings when quitting smoking. Ask your Pharmacist for the available range.
  6. Low-allergenic brands of cosmetics and household cleaners may be beneficial.


  1. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research laboratories; 1999.
  2. Mygind N. Nasal inflammation and anti-inflammatory treatment. Semantics or clinical reality. Rhinology 2001 Jun;39(2):61-65.
  3. Pray WS. Allergic Rhinitis vs. the Common Cold. US Pharmacist 1999 Jan;24:1
  4. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research laboratories; 1999
  5. Pray WS. Allergic Rhinitis vs. the Common Cold. US Pharmacist 1999 Jan;24:1
  6. Beers M et al (eds). The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed). New Jersey: Merck Research laboratories; 1999.
  7. Simola M, Malmberg H. Sense of smell in allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. Allergy. 1998;53:190-194
  8. Berger WE. Treatment update: allergic rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Proc 2001 Jul;22(4):191-198
  9. Veling MC et al. The treatment of allergic rhinitis with immunotherapy: a review of 1,000 cases. Ear Nose Throat J 2001 Aug;80(8):542-543
  10. Pharmacists Role in Allergy Management. Australian Pharamcist. Vol 21. No 5, May 2002
  11. Pizzorno & Murray. Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine. Little Brown & Co. 1995.pp508.
  12. Osiecki H. The Physicians Handbook of Clinical Nutrition. 1990. Bioconcepts. Aust.
  13. Davies, D & Stewart, S. (1987). Nutritional Medicine. Pan Books. London.p.68
  14. Newall, C., Anderson, L. & Phillipson, J. (1996). Herbal Medicines: A guide for Health-care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press: London.
  15. Grieve, M. 1992 (reprint). A Modern Herbal. Cresset Press. London.
  16. Eucalyptus wash controls mites (editorial). Retail Pharmacy 2001 Feb;10(1):23