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Reviewed 10/6/2023

Hay fever: Myth or fact?

Hay fever is the common name for seasonal allergies that make you sneeze, sniffle and reach for tissues. As many as 40 to 60 million of us have hay fever, but there are still many myths surrounding this condition. Do you know the facts?

Myth or fact: Hay fever describes allergies to weeds, grasses, trees and mold—but typically not to hay.

Fact. That's partially why seasonal allergies and seasonal allergic rhinitis are more accurate terms than hay fever. Seasonal allergies are caused by plant pollens and mold spores floating in the air during certain times of the year. They also don't usually cause fever.

Myth or fact: All of these may be symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis: runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, sore throat, and puffiness under your eyes.

Fact. Other symptoms may include coughing, fatigue, clogged ears and decreased sense of smell. Some symptoms occur quickly; others develop later.

Myth or fact: Flower pollen triggers about half of spring and summer allergies.

Myth. Flowers don't cause seasonal allergies. Their pollen is carried by insects, not scattered through the air like pollen from other plants.

Myth or fact: Allergy shots are injections of something you're allergic to.

Fact. The shots contain an allergen—like pollen or mold—that's causing your allergies. Allergy shots can help your body adjust to that allergen and help control your symptoms.

Myth or fact: You can leave your allergies behind by moving to a different state.

Myth. Pollens are everywhere. Not only are your allergies likely to travel with you, but you're also likely to develop new allergies wherever you go.

Myth or fact: Allergies can become contagious. When they do, it's a condition called infectious rhinitis.

Myth. Allergies aren't contagious. Rhinitis is the term for any nasal irritation that causes runny nose and other allergy-like symptoms. Infectious rhinitis is caused by germs, not allergens. The common cold is a type of infectious rhinitis.

If you think you have seasonal allergies, visit your healthcare provider. Skin or blood tests may help identify the allergens causing your symptoms. You and your doctor can work on a plan to reduce your exposure and ease your symptoms.

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