Health conditions

Hay fever

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is the most common allergic disorder in Australia.
  • It can be caused by pollens, dust mites, moulds and animal hair.
  • Hay fever can have a significant impact on sleep, concentration, learning and daily function.
  • Once diagnosed, hay fever can be effectively managed.

Hay fever affects an estimated 1 in 5 Australians, both adults and children.

The condition is not caused by hay and does not result in fever.

What are the signs and symptoms of hay fever?

Immediate signs or symptoms include:

  • runny nose
  • rubbing of the nose
  • itchy nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • congested nose
  • snoring.

Symptoms range from mild or moderate (which do not affect day-to-day functioning) to severe. Complications include:

  • sleep disturbance
  • daytime tiredness
  • headaches
  • poor concentration
  • recurrent ear infections in children
  • recurrent sinus infections in adults
  • asthma can be more difficult to control.
What causes hay fever?

Hay fever is caused by the nose and/or eyes coming into contact with environmental allergens, such as pollens, dust mite, moulds and animal hair.

Pollens from grasses are one of the most common causes. They can be difficult to see and are often worse in spring.

Can hay fever be prevented?

If it is possible to identify the allergen(s) causing the hay fever, then minimising exposure to the allergen(s) may reduce symptoms.

Further information on allergen minimisation is available on the ASCIA website (external site).

For those with pollen allergy, some examples of how to avoid pollens include:

  • staying indoors when possible during pollen season, on windy days, or after thunderstorms
  • avoid activities known to cause exposure to pollen, such as mowing grass
  • shower after activities where you may have had a high exposure to pollen
  • use re-circulated air in your car when pollen levels are high.
How is hay fever treated?

If symptoms persist, or affect your day-to-day activities, discuss treatment options with your general practitioner.

A referral to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist may be required for further assessment, including allergy testing.

Treatment options include medication such as:

  • intranasal corticosteroid sprays – these contain low dose steroids and are safe for long-term use
  • non-sedating antihistamines – these are effective in relieving symptoms and are available without prescription from a pharmacy
  • saline nasal sprays that can help clear nasal decongestion
  • decongestant nasal sprays or tablets – these should be used for a maximum of 5 days. Pregnant women and those with high blood pressure should not use decongestants.

Treatment is important for the effective management of asthma.

Allergen immunotherapy

Allergen immunotherapy is a long-term treatment under the care of a clinical immunology or allergy specialist.

Allergen specific immunotherapy, also known as desensitisation, involves gradually increasing a person’s exposure to a known allergen by injection or sublingual drops or tablets (under the tongue).

Treatment is usually for 3 to 5 years and typically offered to people older than 5 years.

Where to get help


Perth Children's Hospital (PCH)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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