Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an allergic response to environmental allergens including mold, dust mites, pet dander and pollen. Hay fever affects one in five people. Some sufferers experience worse symptoms at particular times of year depending on the seasons in which the plants they're allergic to bloom while others have symptoms all year round.

Hay fever symptoms include puffy, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, sinus pressure, facial pain, allergic shiners (swollen, blue skin under the eyes), itchy mouth, nose or throat and decreased sense of taste or smell. Hay fever sufferers may experience some or all of these symptoms, but they will begin immediately after exposure to the allergen or allergens.

In addition to the regular symptoms of hay fever, complications may arise as a result of the condition. These include difficulty sleeping, worsening asthma symptoms, sinusitis, ear infections (especially in children) and oral allergy syndrome (OAS). OAS may cause your seasonal allergy symptoms to worsen after you eat certain fresh fruits and vegetables, such as melon, banana and cucumber. Common symptoms of OAS include itchiness of the throat and mouth as well as mild swelling (angiodema).

Hay fever causes reduced quality of life in sufferers because symptoms interfere with their productivity at work and at school and prevent them from being able to enjoy their activities. Most people who have hay fever develop it either during childhood or during early adulthood. The severity of their symptoms may change over time, often slowly diminishing over the course of decades. If you have symptoms of hay fever, you should see an allergist for a proper diagnosis and find out what course of treatment is right for you.