Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (Hayfever)

What Is Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (Hayfever)?

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, or hay fever, is the most common type of ocular allergy. As its name suggests, it is related to specific pollens that release spores during specific seasons: May and June (grass pollen) and August and September (ragweed pollen). Itching is a dominant symptom in seasonal allergic conjunctivitis diagnosis, as well as watery/mucus discharge, burning, and redness. If you are affected by hay fever and other seasonal allergies, you may also experience symptoms involving the nose and throat.

Perennial allergic conjunctivitis is a year-round allergic condition. These allergic responses are often related to animal dander, dust, or other allergens present in the environment year round. Symptoms are similar to seasonal allergic conjunctivitis but tend to be milder.


  • Swelling or puffiness of the eyes
  • Redness
  • Itching       
  • Tearing
  • Mucous discharge

The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist for a complete exam.


Allergies to specific environmental pathogens.

Risk Factors

  • Seasonal allergies
  • Exposure to allergens to which you are sensitive

Tests and Diagnosis

Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis usually is diagnosed with a thorough clinical exam and careful history. Skin testing by an allergist may help identify the inciting allergens.

Treatment and Drugs

Before the advent of modern medications, treatment for seasonal allergic conjunctivitis was limited to eye washes that would cleanse the allergen from the eye and provide short-term relief. Today, many treatments are available for seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. They include:

  • Lubricants
  • Decongestants
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestant/antihistamine combinations
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
  • Steroids

Your choice of therapy will depend on the intensity of the allergic response. Since histamines cause most of the common symptoms associated with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, antihistamines or histamine blockers can be effective.

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Reviewed by Jill E. Bixler, M.D.