Seasonal Allergies Causes, Symptoms, and Testing

What are seasonal allergies?

Types, Symptoms, and Solutions

Often called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, seasonal allergies occur during a specific time of the year, causing symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Depending on which pollens are in bloom, seasonal allergies can appear during summer, spring, winter, or fall.

Types of Seasonal Allergies

Featured Season: Spring

Having allergy symptoms in spring is not uncommon. Take a moment to dive in and learn more about the specific types of allergens that may be contributing to springtime sneezing and what you can do to find relief.

Seasonal allergies don’t just occur in spring. Discover which allergens are the most common throughout the year.


Common Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Congestion Watering eyes
Itchy Nose Red or swollen eyes
Runny nose Itchy throat or eyes
Sneezing Difficulty breathing

Diagnosing and Managing Seasonal Allergies

One of the first steps in managing allergy symptoms is to get tested for allergic sensitization to better understand what may or may not be causing symptoms. These test results, along with a physical exam and medical history, can ensure that you receive appropriate treatment sooner, as well as helping to reduce antihistamine use.2,3

The management of allergic rhinitis consists of three major categories of treatment:

1.  Allergen avoidance and environmental control measures

2.  Pharmacological management

3.  Immunotherapy

Seasonal allergy frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Seasonal Allergies

Allergy season depends on where a person lives and what he or she is allergic to. For example:

  • Spring allergies: In some parts of the United States, spring allergy season can start as early as February and last through the summer. It all depends on geographic location and when grasses, trees, and weeds begin pollinating. March and April tend to be known as high spring allergy season months when most people experience the worst of their symptoms.

  • Summer allergies: Spring allergy season can continue into the summer months, as grasses and weeds continue to produce pollen.

  • Fall allergies: The fall season can be especially difficult for people who have allergic sensitizations to mold, as mold spores thrive in damp locations such as fallen leaves, dirt, and rotting wood.4 This time of year is also challenging for those with ragweed sensitization, as ragweed usually begins to pollinate in mid-August and may continue until a hard freeze.5

  • Winter allergies: Winter allergies can occur if a person is allergic to indoor allergens, such as mold, dust mites, and animal dander, and may worsen during the months of November through January due to increased exposure to these indoor allergens.

Symptoms can change from day to day, depending on the weather. For example, high humidity can make mold grow quickly, while pollen counts can surge when it’s warm and windy. Other allergic triggers may be involved, too. Learn more about the symptom threshold.

A common cold has similar symptoms to seasonal allergies. However, a reaction to a cold is caused by a virus while a reaction to an allergen is the result of the immune system responding to a substance it has deemed a threat. Learn more about head, eyes, ears, nose, and throat symptoms

Five ways to tell your seasonal allergies from a cold:12

  1. Colds can produce a fever; allergies cannot.  
  2. Colds typically don’t cause itchy, watery eyes. Allergies typically do. 
  3. Cold symptoms aren’t likely to last more than two weeks, but many people with seasonal allergies will experience symptoms for six weeks at a time.  
  4. Sore throats can accompany colds but rarely occur with allergies. 
  5. Colds can occur during any season, while seasonal allergy symptoms will likely appear at the same time each year. 

Resources for healthcare providers and medical professionals:

Healthcare providers, click below, to learn more about how specific IgE blood testing can help in diagnosing seasonal allergies.

Guidelines and practice parameters

Guidelines provide a foundation for the process of diagnosing allergic rhinitis, which starts with a physical examination and an allergy-focused patient history.7,2 Based on a patient’s clinical history, specific IgE blood testing
can aid in accurately diagnosing a clinical allergy by helping to determine allergic sensitization.8-10

Practice parameters have been developed to classify and manage treatment
of allergic rhinitis, and guideline-directed management has been shown to improve disease control.7,11

Allergen Encyclopedia

Explore our allergen encyclopedia, an easily shareable, patient-friendly resource that includes information on which pollen might be causing seasonal allergies as well as how they may impact food allergies and influence patient management plans.

1. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, Third Expert Panel on the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Bethesda (MD): National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (US); 2007 Aug. Available from:

2. House of Lords, Science and Technology sixth report- the extent and burden of allergy in the United Kingdom. Accessed December 2017. Immunology. Allergy. 2013;68:1102-1116.

3. Pearce L. Managing allergic rhinitis. Nursing Times. 2012;108(17):20-22.

4. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Outdoor Allergens. Accessed September 2019.

5. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. 4 Things You Might Not Know About Fall Allergies. Accessed September 2019.

6. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Is It a Cold or Allergies? Accessed September 2019.

7. Scadding GK, Durham SR, Mirakian R, et al. BSACI guidelines for the management of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38:19-42.

8. Duran-Tauleria E, Vignati G, Guedan MJ, et al. The utility of specific immunoglobulin E measurements in primary care. Allergy. 2004;59 (Suppl 78):35-41.

9. Niggemann B, Nilsson M, Friedrichs F. Paediatric allergy diagnosis in primary care is improved by invitro allergen specific IgE testing. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2008;19:325-331.

10. Smith HE, Hogger C, Lallemant C, et al. Is structured allergy history sufficient when assessing patients with asthma and rhinitis in general practice?
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009;123:646-650.

11. Seidman MD, et al. Clinical practice guideline: allergic rhinitis executive summary. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(2):197-206