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Knowing your allergic triggers can allow you to help take control of your symptoms

Seasonal Allergies: Signs and Symptoms

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

It happens at the same time every year, without fail—you get cold-like symptoms. But maybe it’s not a cold—maybe it’s a seasonal allergy. A seasonal allergy is a result of coming into contact with something that you’re allergic to that’s only around during a specific time of the year. A common example is pollen season.

Seasonal allergies are sometimes called seasonal allergic rhinitis or more commonly known, hay fever (although they have nothing to do with hay or fevers). They are also sometimes called outdoor, fall, or spring allergies.

Seasonal Allergy

Common Seasonal Allergy symptoms

Common seasonal allergy symptoms include:

  • Stuffed-up nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watering eyes
  • Red, itchy eyes and/or swollen eyelids
  • Itchy throat
  • Swelling of the mouth/airways

Your symptoms can change from day to day, depending on the weather. High humidity can make mold grow quickly, while pollen counts surge when it’s warm and windy. If you have wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to these symptoms, you might have allergies that trigger asthma.

Season Allergy Questions

If you suffer from these symptoms every year, you’re probably interested in what will stop them more than what’s causing them.
But you may not be able to find relief until you receive an accurate diagnosis.

For a better consultation with your healthcare provider, fill out My Symptom Profile to help guide your conversation and maximize your time.

Seasonal Allergies vs. Common Cold

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 the immune system responding to a substance it has deemed as a threat. Learn more about head, eyes, ears, nose, and throat symptoms here

Five Ways to Tell Your Seasonal Allergies From a Cold2

  1. Colds can produce a fever, allergies can not.
  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.

Seasonal Allergy Causes and Triggers

Seasonal allergies are most often caused by three types of pollen: grass pollen, tree pollen, and weed pollen. Pollen can travel far, especially on windy days, so allergic reactions may not be due to the grass or trees in your yard or neighborhood. In fact, the source could be trees or grass miles away. Click below to learn more about each type of pollen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Seasonal Allergies 

What is allergy season?

Allergy seasonality depends on where you live and what, exactly, you're allergic to. For example, tree pollen can begin to release early in the year, around February and March, depending on the climate and location. Grass pollen can reach peak season during the summer, while weed pollen increases in the fall.


When are 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 your geographic location and when grass, trees, and weeds begin pollinating. The months of March and April tend to be known as high spring allergy season months where most people experience the worst of their symptoms.


When are summer allergies? 

Spring allergy season can continue into the summer months, as grasses and weeds continue to produce pollen. This is known as summer allergy season.


When are fall allergies? 

The fall season can be especially difficult for people who have allergic sensitizations to mold, as mold spores thrive in damp locations like falling leaves, dirt, and rotting wood.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.4


When are winter allergies? 

Winter allergies can occur if you are allergic to indoor allergens, such as mold, dust mites, and animal dander, and may worsen during the months of November through January. You may experience symptoms during the winter months due to increased exposure to these indoor allergens.


What's the difference between seasonal allergies, hay fever, and allergic rhinitis? 

The terms “seasonal allergies,” “hay fever,” and “allergic rhinitis,” all mean essentially the same thing, and are often used interchangeably. All three terms are used to describe a group of symptoms affecting the nose, such as a runny nose and sneezing, often occurring during peak pollen seasons.


Why don't I have symptoms all of the time? 

You may think that pollen causes your symptoms, but other allergic triggers may be involved, too. Learn more about the symptom threshold.


In fact, it’s been shown that uncontrolled allergic rhinitis can lead to:

  • Increased risk of developing asthma5

  • Poorer asthma control in people with asthma (wheezing, breathlessness, nightime awakenings, limiting daily activities)6

  • Reduced physical, mental and emotional well-being6

  • Reduced sleep quality (waking up at night)7

  • Being constantly tired, and tiring easily, which leads to lowered concentration at work or school and needing more time off, all of which affects job performance or school work5

  • Reduced quality of everyday life, including social life and daily activities5

  • Irritability and social problems in children6
Hay Fever

Undertreated allergic rhinitis is a major factor in developing asthma, and it can make asthma worse.8

If your child suffers from allergies and asthma, learn how you can help take control of their asthma.


My Symptom Profile

Make the most of your appointment
Talk to your healthcare provider about specific IgE blood testing.

Use these questions to help your healthcare provider understand what’s going on with your symptoms. Review your answers together during your office visit to decide if specific IgE blood testing is right for you.

Help your healthcare provider understand what’s been going on with your symptoms and decide if specific IgE blood testing is right for you!

Start Questionnaire

Here Is Your Recap. Now What?

What can your My Symptom Profile tell you about allergies? Nothing, by itself. So resist the temptation to self-diagnose. Treating allergy symptoms with over-the-counter medications or other remedies without determining the cause could lead to more issues in the long run. When paired with testing, such as specific IgE blood testing for food or respiratory allergies, your My Symptom Profile can guide your healthcare provider in creating a customized trigger-management plan to help reduce exposure to suspected allergens.

What symptoms are you experiencing or have you experienced?

Do your symptoms get worse during a particular time?

Do you notice your symptoms more in certain places?

How long have your symptoms been present?


Select all that apply
Runny nose
Itchy eyes
Chest tightness
Abdominal cramps
Itchy mouth
Difficulty breathing
Red, itchy patches of skin
Scratchy throat
Select all that apply
In the morning
At nighttime
In the fall
In the spring/summer
In winter or when temperatures drop
After eating certain foods
When sick
During or after exercise
Select all that apply
At home
At school/work
Around pets or animals
Select one
Since birth
Less than 1 week
More than 6 weeks
For several years

Download a PDF of your results to help guide your conversation and maximize your time with your healthcare provider.

Download Results
Am I Allergic?

How do I find out what I'm allergic to?

How do you know if your seasonal symptoms are caused by an allergy or not? Testing can help your healthcare professional determine what may be behind your endless sneezing and sniffles, so don’t try to manage the problem on your own.

A simple blood test—together with medical history—can help identify underlying allergen triggers, if you have an allergy. Knowing if you’re allergic and what you’re allergic to can help you, or a loved one, avoid or minimize symptoms.

  1. Pawankar R (Ed), et al. White book on allergy 2011; World Allergy Organisation UK.
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/is-it-a-cold-or-allergies. Accessed September 2019. 
  3. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoorallergens. Accessed September 2019. 
  4. https://acaai.org/news/four-things-you-might-not-know-about-fall-allergies. Accessed September 2019.
  5. Del Giudice M, et al. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 2011;24:25-8.
  6. de Groot EP, et al. Thorax 2012;67:582-587
  7. Asthma Control Questionnaire. Available from https://www.qoltech.co.uk/acq.html; last accessed November 2018.
  8. Scadding GK. Arch Dis Child 2015;100:576-282.