What are allergies?

Published on May 23, 2022

Man blows nose into tissue

What are allergies?

Allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to a particular substance, known as an allergen. 

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is a condition in which allergies have caused inflammation of the lining of the nose. Although the symptoms resemble those of the common cold, they are not caused by an infection. Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or perennial (year-round).  The severity of allergic rhinitis is defined as mild or moderate/severe.

What is seasonal (intermittent) allergic rhinitis?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hayfever, is caused by an allergy to pollens from grasses, flowers, weeds or trees. It can cause sudden, frequent attacks of sneezing, nasal discharge and congestion. These episodes may also be accompanied by eye symptoms, such as stinging, itchy and watering eyes.

While it typically develops in childhood, it is not unusual to develop hayfever as an adult. In fact, the median age to develop seasonal allergic rhinitis is 15 years.

What is perennial (persistent) allergic rhinitis?

Perennial allergic rhinitis is an allergy that persists all year round, such as a reaction to allergens such as house dust, animal dander or fungal spores.

What are the symptoms of an allergy?

Cold-like symptoms (sneezing and a runny nose)

Sneezing and a runny nose can often be the first sign of both a common cold and an allergy attack. Unlike the common cold, allergies are not caused by an infection. A mild cold may only last for a few days, but sometimes symptoms can last for up to two weeks. If symptoms persist for longer than this time period, they may be caused by an allergy or you may need to see your doctor.

Recurring irritation

The timing of symptoms may also help determine their cause. Unlike a infection, an allergy will cause symptoms that are persistent or that recur in certain situations. For example, seasonal hayfever will generally occur in the spring, summer or autumn, when the responsible plant releases its pollen into the air.

What are the symptoms of hayfever?

Hayfever symptoms are due to airborne pollens and allergens making their way into your respiratory system, nose or eyes and triggering a reaction that can inflame the area and cause hayfever symptoms.

There are several symptoms that might indicate you are suffering from a hayfever allergy. These include:

  1. Sneezing, runny nose or nasal congestion
  2. Itchy, red or watery eyes

What is pollen?

Pollen is a very fine powder produced by the male fertilising agent of flowering plants, which is used to fertilise other plants from the same species. These types of plants can cause pollen allergies (also known as Hayfever or Allergic Rhinitis) in people.

How is a pollen allergy diagnosed?

A healthcare professional will take a thorough medical history, physical exam and review your symptoms to diagnose your condition. There are skin allergy tests that can be taken to diagnose which allergen is causing your symptoms.

How can I manage spring pollen allergies?

To reduce pollen exposure and the symptoms of hayfever:

  • Check the pollen forecast online or in the newspaper and try to stay indoors if pollen counts are high.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen.
  • Avoid mowing the grass and stay inside when it is being mown.
  • Choose plants for your garden that are pollinated by insects or birds, rather than plants that release their pollen into the air.
  • Regularly splash your eyes with cold water to flush out any pollen.
  • Keep windows closed at home and in the car and use re‐circulated air conditioning.
  • Take allergy medications such as an antihistamine to control sneezing, itchy eyes and other frustrating symptoms of hayfever.
  • Dry bedding and clothing inside or in a tumble dryer. 


How do I treat hayfever?

Telfast® is a non-drowsy antihistamine that works to help reduce the symptoms of hayfever allergies. For those with persistent or severe hayfever, your pharmacist or general practitioner may recommend you a nasal steroid spray, in addition to an antihistamine treatment. Nasal steroid sprays can help to reduce inflammation in the nasal passage to help relieve symptoms.

If your symptoms are not being relieved by your current treatment, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for other options that may better suit your needs.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

How do I treat hayfever when pregnant?

Consult your GP or pharmacist about appropriate hayfever medication for your individual circumstances. Telfast should not be taken while pregnant unless specified by a GP or pharmacist.

Do children get allergies?

Hayfever is a common condition that often develops in childhood. Sensitisation to indoor allergens (e.g. dust mites) can occur by the age of two, while sensitisation to outdoor allergens (e.g. grass pollen) can occur by the ages of three to five.

Do lifestyle factors affect allergies?

A healthy lifestyle can help you manage your allergy symptoms. So, while avoiding allergy triggers is important for managing symptoms, lifestyle choices may also play a part.

  • Prioritise good sleep and relaxation — Getting a good nights sleep helps support your immune system.
  • Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats — Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can play a valuable role in allergy management.
  • Aim for at least a little exercise every day — exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and supports your respiratory system.


Always read the label and follow the directions for use

Learn about which Telfast product may be appropriate for you.


MAT-AU-2102140. Nov 2021

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