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What is a Plant Allergy?

A plant allergy, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, is an allergic reaction caused by plants and their pollen. Symptoms of plant allergies include itchy, watery, or irritated eyes, sneezing, a runny nose or congestion, and tiredness. You may experience hay fever only during certain types of the year (seasonal) such as when the trees begin to bloom in the spring, or you may have perennial allergic rhinitis, which occurs year round.

Each individual may have different triggers causing allergic reactions, some may respond more to trees, while others react to grasses or ragweed. By identifying what is causing your plant allergies, you can better prevent and prepare for allergic reactions.


Plant allergies and hay fever symptoms are similar to the symptoms you may experience during a cold, including:

  • Irritated, red, itchy, or watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Puffy or bruised-looking skin under your eyes
  • Fatigue

When to See a Doctor

If your allergic rhinitis symptoms are making it difficult for you to work or go about normal activities, you may want to call your doctor to discuss treatment options. You should also talk to your doctor if you have asthma, as hay fever can worsen your condition.


Similar to other allergies, plant allergies and hay fever arise when your body identifies a certain substance as harmful and responds similar to how it would a virus, like a cold. This may cause your sinuses to go into overdrive, producing symptoms like congestion and sneezing.

Diagnosis and Tests

In addition to asking you questions about your symptoms and medical history, your provider may use a variety of tools to diagnose and confirm if you have an allergy to plants:

  • Skin allergy test – Possible allergen samples are applied to skin and then observed for reaction
  • Blood test


The best treatment for a plant allergy is to limit your exposure to the offending plant. However, since it may be difficult to avoid all exposure, your provider may also recommend one of these treatments to manage your symptoms:

  • Allergy immunotherapy, also known as an allergy shot, is a long-term treatment that reduces your sensitivity to substances that cause allergies. Many people find that their allergies improve so much that they can stop taking their regular allergy medications. Immunotherapy is less effective in some patients who have asthma because their asthma is not the result of allergies.

    Even so, about half of patients with asthma have an improvement in their asthma symptoms because of immunotherapy. Although immunotherapy generally is considered safe and effective, you should know that no treatment outcome is guaranteed.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications may also be recommended, including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Nasal rinse


The best way to prevent hay fever and an allergic reaction from occurring is to avoid the plants causing your symptoms. You may also want to try showering and washing your hair before you go to bed, to prevent your sinuses from breathing in the allergens trapped in your hair while you sleep.