woman sneezing

If you or someone you care about suffers from seasonal allergies, you might wonder, what is hayfever, and what are the common symptoms?

Read on as we cover each of those topics.

(Note: This is Part 1 of a series on Seasonal Allergies. Scroll down to the bottom for links to Parts 2-5).

What is Hayfever?

Hayfever, also called seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis, is a condition which causes cold- or flu-like symptoms.

But where colds and flus are caused by viruses, seasonal allergies are not.

They are caused by an immune system reaction – an over-reaction, in most cases – to airborne particles.

(Wondering what the most common triggers of allergies are and when they tend to happen? Then check out my article Seasonal Allergies: Triggers and Timing).

When the immune system responds to allergens, it creates inflammation (swelling) as the body sends a flood of traffic (immune cells) to capture, isolate and destroy the offending particles after they have entered the respiratory system (nose/sinuses, mouth, throat, ears, and lungs):

respiratory system

This immune response also stimulates an increased production of mucous to flush out the invaders.

The swelling and extra mucous from this immune response are what lead to most of the symptoms that are associated with allergies.

Some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies are well known and obvious. But others might surprise you!

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Runny nose Noise-sensitivity Cough
Congestion/pressure Impaired hearing Chest congestion
Nose, cheeks, teeth “Gravel” in eyes Asthma
Head, neck, jaw Goopy or watery eyes Shortness of breath
Ears, eyes Red, burning or sore eyes Stomach upset/nausea
Throat Puffy/swollen eyes Impaired sense of taste
Lungs Light-sensitivity Loss of appetite
Sneezing Dark circles under eyes Looser stools
Itchy nose, eyes or ears Itchy palate (roof of mouth) More food reactivity
Postnasal drip (PND) Toothache Headaches
Impaired smelling Pain in cheeks or jaw Swollen glands in neck
Ringing in ears Sore throat Skin rashes, hives, acne
Increased ear wax Tickle in throat Histamine reaction

Now, after seeing that list of symptoms of seasonal allergies, you might have noticed that a lot of them are similar to the common cold/flu. But there are some key differences that are important to note, since:

  • a cold or flu can be contagious, so you should stay home while you recover, while allergies are not (though you might want to stay home anyway cuz you feel rotten!),
  • and
  • effective treatments for cold/flu vs. allergies are different.

So, how can you tell the difference between a cold/flu and seasonal allergies?

The Differences Between Cold/Flu and Allergies:
Condition Differentiating symptoms Onset Duration
Hayfever Clear or white mucous;
no fever or chills;
no body aches;
no vomiting or diarrhea;
gets better with anti-histamines
Immediately after exposure to allergens As long as you’re exposed to allergens
Cold/Flu Colorful mucous (yellow, green, brown); body aches;
fever/chills;
vomiting, diarrhea;
does not respond to anti-histamines
One to three days after exposure to a cold virus Three to seven days

Now that we’ve covered what hayfever is and what the typical symptoms are, in Part 2 of this series, we’ll go over the most common triggers of seasonal allergies and when exposure to them usually happens.

Part 2: Triggers and Timing
Part 3: The Underlying (Root) Causes
Part 4: The Bests Tests to Do
Part 5: Natural Treatments