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WHAT ARE SEASONAL ALLERGIES?

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 hay fever (although they have nothing to do with hay or fevers). All three terms mean essentially the same thing and are often used interchangeably. 

To learn more about seasonal allergies, click on a link below:

Graphic explaining allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever

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

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

Your 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. If you have wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to the symptoms above, you might have allergies that trigger asthma. Other allergic triggers may be involved, too. Learn more about the symptom threshold.

 

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.

Seasonal allergies questions icon

How do I know what’s causing my symptoms?

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. That’s why testing is so important—if you can identify your triggers, you can take control of your symptoms.

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

When is allergy season?

Allergy season depends on where you live and what you're allergic to. Explore the seasons below to learn more about when certain allergy triggers can appear.

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.

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.

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.2 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.3

Winter allergies

Winter allergies can occur if you are allergic to indoor allergens, such as molddust 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.

Managing Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Testing is the first step to managing your seasonal allergy symptoms. Once you know what’s causing your symptoms, you can work with your healthcare provider to determine the best way to avoid your triggers. Managing your symptoms may involve a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and/or immunotherapy.

Once you identify your triggers, you can minimize exposure to them by adopting a few simple practices. Here are some examples:4

  • Take allergy medicines 30 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are at their peak, usually during the midmorning and early evening (this may vary according to plant pollen), and when it’s windy outside.
  • Remove work clothes outdoors after working outside and carry them in a bag to the washing machine. Even better, wear a microfiber facemask when working outside. 
  • Shower after being or working outside — wash hair, eyes, and eyelashes.
  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning in your car and home. Make sure to keep your air conditioning unit clean.
  • Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for furnace and vacuum cleaners.
Seasonal allergies vs common cold nose icon

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 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 Cold5

Tell seasonal allergies from common cold step one icon

Colds can produce a fever, allergies can not. 

Tell seasonal allergies from common cold step two icon

Colds typically don’t cause itchy, watery eyes. Allergies typically do.

Tell seasonal allergies from common cold step three icon

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. 

Tell seasonal allergies from common cold step four icon

Sore throats can accompany colds, but rarely occur with allergies.

Tell seasonal allergies from common cold step five icon

Colds can occur during any season, while seasonal allergy symptoms will likely appear at the same time each year.

Five Ways to Tell Your Seasonal Allergies From a Cold5

  • Colds can produce a fever, allergies can not.
  • Colds typically don’t cause itchy, watery eyes. Allergies typically do.
  • 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. 
  • Sore throats can accompany colds, but rarely occur with allergies.
  • Colds can occur during any season, while seasonal allergy symptoms will likely appear at the same time each year.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF RHINITIS ISN'T MANAGED PROPERLY

Sometimes rhinitis can be more than just the “sniffles.” In fact, it’s been shown that uncontrolled allergic rhinitis can lead to:

  • Increased risk of developing asthma6

  • Poorer asthma control in people with asthma (wheezing, breathlessness, nightime awakenings, limiting daily activities)7

  • Reduced physical, mental and emotional well-being7

  • Reduced sleep quality (waking up at night)8

  • 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 work6

  • Reduced quality of everyday life, including social life and daily activities6

  • Irritability and social problems in children7
Graphic explaining the link between allergic rhinitis and asthma

Undertreated allergic rhinitis is a major factor in developing asthma, and it can make asthma worse.9


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?

Finished!

Select all that apply
Runny nose
Sneezing
Fatigue
Diarrhea
Itchy eyes
Wheezing
Chest tightness
Abdominal cramps
Itchy mouth
Difficulty breathing
Red, itchy patches of skin
Constipation
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
Other
Select all that apply
At home
At school/work
Outdoors
Indoors
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.

OR
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.

References
  1. Pawankar R (Ed), et al. White book on allergy 2011; World Allergy Organisation UK.
  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Outdoor Allergens. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoorallergens. Accessed September 2019. 
  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. 4 Things You Might Not Know About Fall Allergies. https://acaai.org/news/four-things-you-might-not-know-about-fall-allergies. Accessed September 2019.
  4. Environmental management of pediatric asthma. Guidelines for health care providers. National Guideline Clearinghouse. 2008.
  5. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Is It a Cold or Allergies? ttps://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/is-it-a-cold-or-allergies. Accessed September 2019.
  6. Del Giudice M, et al. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 2011;24:25-8.
  7. de Groot EP, et al. Thorax 2012;67:582-587
  8. Asthma Control Questionnaire. Available from https://www.qoltech.co.uk/acq.html; last accessed November 2018.
  9. Scadding GK. Arch Dis Child 2015;100:576-282.