An Overview of Hay Fever Rash

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Hay fever rash is a less common symptom of hay fever, otherwise known as seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis. The same inhaled allergens that cause sneezing and watery eyes can cause itchy, red, inflamed bumps or welts across the skin.

The rashes often co-occur with an attack of hay fever, even though they are not a product of hay fever itself. Allergic contact dermatitis and eczema are two types of rashes that can also co-occur with hay fever.

This article explains hay fever rash symptoms and causes, including some specific conditions that may be associated with these rashes. It discusses how a healthcare provider may diagnose and treat hay fever rashes.

Why Rash Can Occur With Hay Fever

Hay fever rashes develop when the body mounts an immune response to otherwise harmless substances in the air, like pollen from blooming trees, weeds, grasses, and also dust and pet dander. (In fact, hay fever rash is sometimes called a pollen rash.)

When you inhale these allergens, mast cells in your body release a chemical called histamine into the bloodstream. When histamine is released into the dermis (the lower layer of your skin), it causes a reaction in the skin, creating a red, inflamed, itchy rash.

Hay fever rashes arise from different types of conditions, including allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Some people are more prone to developing a hay fever rash than others.

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This is a type of rash that develops when your skin touches a substance you're allergic to. This reaction can happen completely independently of hay fever (say, due to an allergy to metal on a watch), but it can also occur along with it because of a shared trigger like pollen.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema): The association between this skin condition and hay fever is twofold: People with eczema are much more likely to also have hay fever and asthma. Additionally, hay fever can trigger a flare-up of eczema.

Many people with eczema find their skin condition is worse during the prime hay fever seasons of spring, summer, and early fall.

Symptoms and Signs

Hay fever rash symptoms can differ depending on what condition is present. Symptoms can include:

  • Hives, with extremely itchy, red, raised welt-like bumps
  • Angioedema, swelling of the skin (often occurs with hives, but may last longer due to chronic allergen exposure)
  • With allergic contact dermatitis: Red, itchy blister-like bumps that may ooze (if chronic, they may be dry)
  • With eczema: Red, itchy, and painful skin that is often scaly

Note, however, that hay fever can also make your skin feel generally itchy without causing a rash.

What a Hay Fever Rash Looks Like

There is a lot of overlap in the appearance of these rashes, but here are some hay fever rash photos that can offer you a sense of how the skin may look when affected by contact dermatitis vs. eczema.

Photo of Contact Dermatitis-Related Hay Fever Rash

The amount of time that occurs between when you touch a triggering substance and when allergic contact dermatitis appears is variable. It can occur within minutes or develop hours or days after the exposure.

Allergic contact dermatitis on the skin

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet NZ and ©Waikato District Health Board 2022.

Photo of Eczema-Related Hay Fever Rash

Atopic dermatitis (Eczema) on the skin

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet NZ 2022

Other Hay Fever Symptoms

Hay fever rashes likely occur in the presence of other, more typical hay fever symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose and nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose and eyes
  • Red and/or watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy ears and/or an itchy, irritated throat


A healthcare provider can diagnose most rashes with a physical exam coupled with your medical history. There are other tests that can be done, such as a KOH prep test (AKA skin scraping) or skin biopsy, to rule out a fungal infection or other possible conditions.

It can be difficult to diagnose a hay fever rash, which may present alongside symptoms similar to the common cold or that point to a different condition, like asthma or an ear infection.

However, your healthcare provider may suspect that hay fever is more likely if:

  • You have a history of atopic conditions like eczema
  • You have a family history of hay fever and/or other allergies
  • You have seasonal symptoms or they occur with a specific exposure

If your symptoms get better when you take an allergy medication, your healthcare provider may consider this evidence when making a diagnosis, too.

It's always a good idea to see a healthcare provider if you're experiencing a rash for the first time.

Allergy testing may be necessary to determine what triggered your rash. If you don't know what you're allergic to a specialty healthcare provider called an immunologist can perform certain tests to identify the culprit. This may include blood tests or skin patch testing.

Once you have identified the substance(s) you are allergic to you can take measures to avoid the substance in the future to prevent future problems. The more you are exposed to the triggering substance the more severe your symptoms may become.

Hay Fever Rash Treatment

Many of the treatments that you normally use to control your hay fever symptoms can also be beneficial in preventing and treating associated skin rashes.

How to Treat a Hay Fever Rash

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin


Antihistamines, including fexofenadine and diphenhydramine, help relieve itching and are the first-line treatment for hives. If you are looking for an antihistamine that specifically helps skin rashes talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Antihistamines typically treat hives very effectively, but many rashes do not respond to antihistamines. Most people prefer the non-sedating antihistamines like fexofenadine or cetirizine rather than diphenhydramine, unless they are having trouble sleeping because of itchiness.

Cold Compresses and Moisturizing Creams

Hay fever rash home remedies can help with the itching and discomfort. Cold compresses, calamine lotion, or colloidal oatmeal baths can soothe irritated, itchy skin, no matter the cause.

Using moisturizing creams several times per day can help too, since dry skin makes itching and eczema feel worse. Choose one that contains emollient ingredients such as petrolatum, mineral oil, squalane, or dimethicone.

Topical Steroid Creams

Topical steroid creams, including over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone and the prescription medications desonide and clobetasol, also may help.

These creams are common treatments for both eczema and allergic contact dermatitis. All topical steroids, including OTC products, should be used with care on the face and never used around the eyes. Seek advice from a healthcare provider before using an OTC topical steroid on a child.

Prescription-only medications should only be taken under the direction and care of a healthcare provider.


Immunotherapy (allergy shots), for severe allergies, may be an option that can reduce symptoms or even cure your hay fever.

This treatment continues to evolve, making it more cost-effective, convenient, and less painful (ask your healthcare provider about sublingual immunotherapy).

Limiting Exposure

Avoiding or limiting contact with the triggering substance is crucial. You may need to change your clothes after spending time outside, keep your windows closed when pollen counts are high, or take other precautions to help you avoid certain allergens.

A Word From Verywell

Hay fever can trigger various skin rashes, each slightly different in the specific causes and symptoms. If you do have seasonal allergies, you will likely be more prone to developing allergic skin rashes. Fortunately, in most cases, these rashes can be managed. Talk to your healthcare provider or allergist to get the most effective treatment plan for you.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schaefer P. Acute and Chronic Urticaria: Evaluation and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2017 Jun 1;95(11):717-724.

  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Rhinitis (hay fever).

Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.