Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

An allergic response causing itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and other similar symptoms.

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is a type of inflammation in the nasal passages caused by an excessive immune response to inhaled airborne substances such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mould spores.

It affects millions of people worldwide, causing symptoms like sneezing, runny or stuffed nose, itching of the nose, eyes, or roof of the mouth, and watery eyes.  It can occur seasonally or all year round depending on the allergic trigger.

Allergic rhinitis is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions in Australia, affecting almost 1-in-5 Australians.  Unlike many health conditions, allergic rhinitis is more common in those of working age than it is in the young and the elderly.

Allergic rhinitis can significantly impact on an individual’s quality of life.  Having allergic rhinitis can negatively impact on schoolwork, sleep and other activities.

Allergic rhinitis is an atopic disorder (atopy refers to the genetic tendency to develop allergic disease) and often occurs with asthma, eczema and IgE-mediated food allergy in the same individual or other related family members.

The term “united airway disease” refers to the high rates of co-existing allergic rhinitis and asthma within affected individuals due to their similar pathogenesis. This is important as better allergic rhinitis control can improve asthma management.

Other conditions associated with allergic rhinitis include chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis and recurrent otitis media in children. 40% to 50% of children older than 3 years with chronic otitis media have confirmed allergic rhinitis.

What types of Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)​ are there?

  • Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: This type occurs mainly during specific seasons when certain plants release their pollen into the air. It’s commonly associated with tree, grass, or weed pollen and typically occurs during spring and summer. In NSW, the season typically runs from September to March and peaks in October-December. Pollen seasons vary from year-to-year in terms of when they start/finish and the number of high pollen days.
  • Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: This type can occur year-round and is usually triggered by indoor allergens such as house dust mite, pet dander and moulds.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Sneezing
  • Blocked nose
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose, throat, or roof of the mouth
  • Itchy, watery eyes

Diagnosing allergic rhinitis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and allergy testing. Your doctor may inquire about your symptoms, triggers, and medical history. Allergy tests such as skin prick tests or blood tests may be performed to identify what your allergic triggers are.

  1. Allergen Avoidance: One method to manage allergic rhinitis is to avoid exposure to the allergens that trigger your symptoms. This may involve reducing exposure to animal triggers, house dust mite covers for your mattress and pillow covers, or minimising outdoor activities during high pollen days.
  2. Medications:
    • Oral Antihistamines: These drugs partially alleviate sneezing and nasal/eye itching by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical released during allergic reactions. Newer second generation non-sedating antihistamines are preferred over older sedating antihistamines.
    • Nasal Corticosteroids: These nasal sprays reduce inflammation and congestion in the nasal passages, providing relief from the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
    • Combination treatments (intranasal corticosteroid and antihistamine spray): These are typically the most effective medication option for symptom management.
      Intranasal saline treatments, leukotriene receptor antagonists and oral/intranasal decongestants can also be considered. 
  3. Allergen specific immunotherapy (Allergy Injections): This treatment involves regular administration of allergens you are allergic to, in an attempt to desensitize your immune system. Allergen immunotherapy is the closest thing we have for a “cure” for allergy, reducing the severity of symptoms and the need for medication for those symptoms.

Take back control – start your journey today.

We are a leading paediatric and adult Allergy, Immunology and Immunopathology group with clinics in the Sydney CBD and Westmead.

Our specialists hold sub-specialised qualifications in allergy and immunology, and pathology, and offer significant clinical experience.

If you have a question about a condition or treatment, or would like to book an appointment, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.