Hay fever

hay fever

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to environmental allergens. It is very common and often occurs during spring, when there are many airborne pollens, dust, moulds and animal hair particles in the air, however, some individuals can develop hay fever at any time of the year. This is influenced by exposure to a triggering allergen that an individual has developed sensitivity to.  Farmers are at increased risk of hay fever as their work environments produces pollens, dust, moulds and animal hair.

 Common symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Itchy ears, nose and throat
  • Itchy red watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches

When to get help

Sometimes hay fever will clear up without treatment. If it doesn’t you should seek help if:

  • Your hay fever makes it hard for you to concentrate, work or sleep
  • You feel tired, miserable and unwell
  • You start producing thick green mucus. This could indicate you have sinusitis (an infection in your sinuses) which needs treatment

Where to get help

You can ask your local pharmacist or doctor for medication. Make sure you tell them the type of work you do on the farm.  Some hay fever medications can make you drowsy and increase the risk of accidents and injury when operating farm machinery or driving!


  • Reduce exposure to dust and pollens.
  • Wear an Australian Standards compliant P2 dust mask if you are working in a dusty environment or with mouldy organic materials such as hay, grain or silage.
  • When slashing or mowing large dry areas of grass on a tractor with no cabin – try to avoid the dust load or wearing a P2 dust mask.
  • Ensure the P2 dust mask has two straps and fits correctly. The fit of the dust mask is essential, as the presence of facial hair and beards can reduce the effectiveness of the mask.
  • Hose down dusty areas such as sheep or cattle yards prior to mustering stock to reduce the amount of dust.
  • To purchase a P2 dust mask visit our safety shop.
  • Click here to find out more about AgriSafe™ clinics and have a P2 dust mask properly fitted

References used for this topic page

More information:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

Is it allergic rhinitis (hay fever)?

Better Health Channel

Hay fever

Clinical care:

Medical Journal of Australia

Optimising the management of allergic rhinitis: an Australian perspective

National Asthma Council Australia

Managing allergic rhinitis in people with asthma (PDF)

Research & reviews:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Chronic respiratory diseases in Australia (PDF)

Clinical and Experimental Allergy

Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer’s children and their peers living in the same rural community

Journal of Agromedicine

Respiratory Disease in Agricultural Workers: Mortality and Morbidity Statistics

Medical Journal of Australia

Occupational lung diseases in Australia

Safework Australia

Occupational Respiratory diseases in Australia PDF

Fast facts:

Hay fever

  • Hay fever is very common and it’s caused by airborne particles that an individual has become sensitive too.
  • You should seek help from your pharmacist or doctor if symptoms persist and affect your quality of life.
  • Wear an Australian Standards approved P2 dust mask to prevent the inhalation of airborne pollens and particles when working in dusty environments with mouldy organic matter such as rain damaged hay or silage.

Last updated: 18th January, 2019