School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow upshow/hide menu

Ask A Biologist heading
Pollen subheader

Hay Fever

show/hide words to know

  • Allergy: the reaction (sneezing, watery eyes, itching) our body sometimes have to things like pollen, dust, and molds... more
  • Irritants: things that cause our body to react usually with our body defense system (immune system).
  • Symptoms: (1) How you look or feel when sick; like a fever or rash. (2) Changes in your body or behavior when you are sick.

hay stascksWhy do they call it Hay Fever?

For some people during the summer months a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing are part of life. The cause of these symptoms is hay fever. Just what is hay fever and is it really hay that makes some carry a pocket full of Kleenex tissues? Hay fever is one way people describe summer allergies. This the time of year when many plants are flowering and so a lot of pollen is in the air and pollen is what makes some people sneeze and have watery eyes.

So it must be hay that makes people sneeze - right?

Actually hay is not the problem. Many other plant pollens as well as other things like dust and molds cause allergies. Hay just got a bad name because it happens to be grown and harvested when other allergy causing plants are busy making their pollen. Because people with allergies noticed they were sneezing a lot during "haying season" the name "hay fever" was started and remains in our dictionary today.

If it is not hay, what plants cause the most problems for people with allergies?

There are so many things that can cause allergies, here are just a few of the plants that are the worst.*

Flowers/herbs

Amaranth (pigweed), chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, goldenrod, ordinary sunflowers.

Grasses

Bermuda, fescue, Johnson, June, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, salt grass, sweet vernal, timothy

Trees

Alder, ash (male), aspen (male), beech, birch, box elder (male), cedar (male), cottonwood (male), elm, hickory, red and silver maples (male), mulberry (male), oak, olive, palm (male), pecan, pine, poplar (male), sycamore, walnut, willow (male).

Weeds

Cocklebur, ragweed, Russian thistle, sagebrush.


* Reference:

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/best-worst-plants

Sneezing

Sneeze shows droplets exiting a man’s open mouth. A good reason to cover your mouth when coughing, or sneezing to protect others from germ exposure.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

Sneezing

Sneeze shows droplets exiting a man’s open mouth. A good reason to cover your mouth when coughing, or sneezing to protect others from germ exposure.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.