What Is Hay Fever?
Endless sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and runny nose — the symptoms
of hay fever — may plague you during blooming seasons. Hay fever (also known as
seasonal allergies) occurs when your body views certain particles as foreign
invaders. Known as allergens, these particles can be anything from pollen to
When your body is exposed to allergens, it releases histamines.
Histamines are meant to protect you from harm, but they can also cause the
allergy symptoms that make some seasons very uncomfortable. This includes a
frequent cough that has others trying to get away from you for fear of getting
While hay fever — and hay fever cough — aren’t contagious, they’re
uncomfortable and can make you miserable. Keep reading to find out how to treat
your cough at home, and even prevent it from happening again.
What Are the Symptoms of Hay
Growing seasons cause plants to bloom and molds to multiply, so you’ll
usually experience your symptoms at the same time every year. This can help you
confirm that your symptoms are due to hay fever and not a viral infection.
Symptoms associated with hay fever include:
sense of smell or taste
or stuffy nose
pain or pressure
or itchy eyes
It’s possible to experience hay fever symptoms year-round,
particularly if you’re allergic to something indoors like dust mites,
cockroaches, mold, or pet dander.
The good news about hay fever symptoms is that they tend to go away as
you age. Children and young adults typically develop allergy symptoms, and they
often start to subside as the body gets more used to the allergen.
What Causes a Hay Fever Cough?
A hay fever cough and other allergy
symptoms will occur fairly quickly after you’ve been exposed to an allergen
that bothers your body. When the allergen is taken away, your symptoms and
cough usually go away too.
Seasonal hay fever triggers
that grow from fungi and molds
Year-round triggers for hay fever
dander, such as from cats, dogs, or birds
from fungi and molds that grow indoors
These allergens set off a chain
reaction after they get into your system. When you have a hay fever cough, you
are experiencing the aftereffects of postnasal drip.
Postnasal drip occurs when the
allergens irritate the lining of the nose. This triggers the nasal passages to
produce mucus, a sticky substance that’s supposed to remove harmful or dirty
particles from the air. Mucus associated with allergens tends to be thicker and
more watery than the mucus your body produces when you aren’t sick or
experiencing allergies. This watery mucus drips out of your nose and down your
throat. This “tickles” the throat and leads to a hay fever cough.
This cough usually comes with a
constant tickling feeling in the throat. If you’re exposed to your allergen
when you’re outdoors, your coughing will most likely be more frequent in the
daytime. However, your cough will generally be worse at night. This effect is
largely due to gravity. During the day, you are standing and sitting up more
than at night. As a result, mucus can drain more easily than at night when you
are lying down.
Asthma is another common cause of
a cough. When a person with asthma is exposed to an allergen, the airways can
tighten, which causes a wheezing cough. Asthma symptoms include shortness of
breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
Diagnosing a Hay Fever Cough
When you have an infection, the
mucus in your body starts to thicken due to the presence of a virus or
bacteria. The type of mucus your body is producing can help your doctor tell
the difference between a hay fever cough and an infection. If you have thin
mucus, as opposed to thick mucus that is difficult to cough up, allergies are
usually to blame.
Your doctor will likely ask you
about your symptoms, what makes them worse or better, and when you started
Treatments for a Hay Fever Cough
A hay fever cough usually isn’t
contagious, but it can be uncomfortable and irritate your throat. This causes
it to feel scratchy and itchy. There are several ways to deal with a hay fever
cough to help you start feeling better.
Medicines that dry up the postnasal
drip can help. These are known as decongestants and many are available over the
counter. Common decongestant ingredients are pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.
Another option is to take an antihistamine. This helps to block the release of
histamines that cause the inflammation in the body. Over-the-counter options
often have ingredients like chlorpheniramine or diphenhydramine.
If you don’t want to take
medicine (or it hasn’t worked for you), home remedies exist too. This includes
inhaling steam, such as from a hot shower. The warmth helps to open up your
nasal passages while the moist steam keeps them from drying out. Saline nose
sprays can help to “wash out” the allergens and extra mucus, reducing the cough
symptoms. These are available at a drugstore. You can also make your own by
following these steps:
a cup of water to a clean bowl or basin.
1/8 teaspoon of table salt.
a clean washcloth in the basin.
wringing out the washcloth, lift it up to your nostril and inhale to take in
the saline solution. You can repeat this about three times per day.
If none of these measures work,
talk to your doctor about seeing an allergy specialist. An allergist can
identify exactly what’s making you sneeze and cough and recommend targeted
treatments. Allergy shots are one example, which involve exposing a person to
small parts of a particular allergen to desensitize the body’s reaction.
Postnasal drip usually causes a
hay fever cough. This condition can be treated with either medications or home
remedies. If you know what allergens make you cough, avoid them whenever
possible. This includes staying indoors on days when pollen counts are high.
Changing your clothes and washing your hair and body after being outdoors can
also help to reduce hay fever-causing allergens. If at-home remedies aren’t
effective, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.