Five Spring Allergy Myths and What They Mean for You

Feb. 22, 2022  Rebecca Rosenberger MMSc, PA-C 

Rebecca Rosenberger is the Associate Director of U.S. Clinical Affairs & Education in the Immunodiagnostics Division at Thermo Fisher Scientific and a physician assistant specializing in allergy & immunology.

When spring arrives, so does outdoor pollen. The flowers bloom, the frost melts, and seasonal allergies make their despicable return. Looking out the window to the trees, weeds, and grasses—all while having itchy eyes and a runny nose—you might be tempted to simply curse pollen for those irritating symptoms and resign yourself to an increased tissue and antihistamine budget. However, it’s often not just spring pollen that’s causing that itchy throat and sneezing. In fact, up to 90 percent of people with allergies are allergic to multiple allergens.1

So guess what? It could actually be any number of allergens, from dust mites to pet dander, combining to trigger your symptoms. While you might assume it’s pollen that’s causing you pain, allergies just aren’t that simple.

But you must know that since you are here looking for answers. And boy do we have them for you.

Join us as we break down five common seasonal allergy myths.

1. Spring allergies are only caused by pollen.

While it’s true that there’s an increase in pollen during spring, summer, and even into early fall, it’s wrong to assume that pollen is the only allergic trigger, pop an antihistamine, and call it a day. Not only are you playing a guessing game with your body, but also you might be trying to treat symptoms without knowing what is causing them. That’s a no-no.  

“But Allergy Insider, my allergy symptoms always act up during the spring, and Instagram influencers also complain about their spring allergies, so that MUST be what it is.” Maybe. Maybe not. Consider this: When you encounter multiple substances you’re allergic to at the same time, they can add up, and that’s when you’ll start experiencing symptoms.2,3 This is called the symptom threshold.

Think about your symptom threshold like the rim of an empty cup, and the different substances you’re allergic to as liquids. A splash of pollen, a shot of pet dander, a scoop of dust mites, and the next thing you know, your cup is overflowing and your face is exploding. But, if you can modify this cursed cocktail by reducing exposure to one or two of those allergens, your cup might not overflow, which may mean no itchy eyes, no sneezing, and no repeated trips to the store for more antihistamines.   

Obviously, we can’t control nature (looking at you, Mr. Freeze). But there’s a lot we can do to reduce exposure to sneaky indoor allergens that are just as capable of causing the sniffles.    

2. You can only be allergic to one thing at a time.

Reducing exposure to one or two allergens that you can control (such as pet dander or dust mites) could keep you below your threshold, even when spring pollen is in the air. 

Examples of indoor allergens to which you can help control exposure:

Pet Dander
Dust Mites

3. Only allergic triggers cause symptoms.

It’s not just allergens that can cause allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, a runny nose, or sneezing. Non-allergic triggers can also produce allergy-like symptoms. Using a new cleaning product or being around cigarette smoke are a couple of examples of non-allergic triggers. Note that non-allergic triggers don’t biologically work the same way as allergic triggers, so antihistamines won’t help with relief. Additional examples include: 

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Outdoor dust (e.g. dust storms)


4. It’s impossible to know exactly what you’re allergic to.

One of the most important actions you can take when, or even before, your allergy symptoms start acting up is to get an allergy test. Testing will help your healthcare provider pinpoint your exact allergic sensitizations. You’ll know precisely what is causing an allergic reaction and the steps to take to reduce or avoid exposure to them. And guess what? Reducing exposure to those triggers can also help you manage symptoms—or even avoid them altogether. Win-win. 

While you can’t get an allergy test to determine those non-allergic triggers we talked about, you can use the process of elimination based on your test results. If your test results come back negative, and yet allergy-like symptoms persist, take a look at your environment and do what you can to avoid potential non-allergic culprits.

5. Suffering through allergy season is the only option

We just told you some really cool facts about pollen, indoor allergies, and non-allergic triggers and what do to about them. The rest is up to you. Impress your friends, educate your healthcare provider, and walk around with your runny nose held high. 

Oh, and get tested already. Ask your primary care provider about allergy blood testing or click on Get Tested below to start tracking your symptoms.

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  1. Ciprandi G, Alesina R, Ariano R, et al. Characteristics of patients with allergic polysensitization; the polismail study. Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;40 (3);77-83.
  2. Wickman M. When allergies complicate allergies. Allergy. 2005;60 (Suppl 79):14–18.
  3. Burbach GJ, et al. GA2 LEN skin test study II: clinical relevance of inhalant allergen sensitizations in Europe. Allergy. 2009;64:1507-15.