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What is a Pollen Allergy?

A pollen allergy, or hay fever, is an allergic reaction caused by the powder that plants, trees, and flowers release as they bloom. Pollen allergy sufferers often experience symptoms similar to a cold, including sneezing and itchy or watery eyes.

People experience pollen allergies at different times of the year, depending on what type of plant is producing the irritating pollen. During the spring most trees and grasses produce pollen, while in the fall ragweed is more likely to blame for your discomfort. By identifying what types of pollen you are most susceptible to, you can better prevent and manage reactions.

When to See a Doctor

If your pollen allergy 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, pollen 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 pollen:

  • 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 pollen producer. 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.


Pollen 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
  • Headache
  • Sore throat caused by post-nasal drip