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The Call-On-Doc Guide to Seasonal Allergies

Published on Mar 14, 2023 | 10:34 AM

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For many, fall and spring are the most beautiful times of the year to enjoy nature. Of course, it's no wonder why, with all the flowers, trees, and other plants adding color to the environment by blooming. However, for many of our patients across the country, it can be hard to enjoy being outside due to seasonal allergies. 

What are seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are common allergic reactions emphasized by a runny nose, itchy eyes, skin irritation, and more. Seasonal allergies are typically in response to mold spores, pollen, or dust in the air, regularly occurring during the summer, fall, and spring seasons. With a wide range of allergies from person to person, the CDC estimates that around 60 million or more Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.

As a problem that affects so many Americans regularly, it is essential to have a good idea about the causes and symptoms surrounding allergies. Here is a quick guide to allergies including: seasonal allergy causes and symptoms, diagnosis, at-home tips, and treatment options.

What are the main causes of seasonal allergies?

An overreaction of the immune system causes seasonal allergies to allergens such as pollen, mold spores, insects, and more. When these allergens enter the body, the immune system produces histamine, which is responsible for seasonal symptoms like congestion, pressure in the face, a temporary cough, and more.

The main causes of seasonal allergies include:

  • Mold spores: Not just found inside buildings and caves, mold is regularly found outdoors. Especially prevalent in fall and spring, mold spores can be an issue for people when the climate is largely humid. 
  • Insect bites/stings: Insects can come seasonally due to their lack of resistance to the cold. While you may think of bees and ants, parasitic creatures such as scabies, chiggers and ticks are also a cause.
  • Pollen: One of the most prevalent allergies in the United States, pollen becomes commonplace at certain times of the year when plants like trees, bushes, grasses, and weeds try to reproduce. While not all plants produce pollen in this way, enough that do affect the environment heavily. 

When someone refers to seasonal allergies, they typically refer to pollen produced by trees, grass, and weeds. It's important to note that seasonal allergies can vary depending on geographical location and climate. 

What months have seasonal allergies?

Generally, the months that are associated with seasonal allergies are spring, summer, and fall. Spring allergies usually start in late February or early March and last through May. This is when trees such as oak, elm, birch, and maple release pollen, a primary trigger for spring allergies. While tree pollen dominates the environment, you’ll see an equally high grass pollen count come May. 

Summer allergies usually last from June to August, during which time grass pollen is the main trigger. Grasses like Bermuda, rye, fescue, orchard, and more are particularly prevalent throughout the summer while also being prevalent in the United States. July and August are known to be difficult for those suffering from asthma due to the high pollen count from grass and weeds along with the excessive heat. 

Fall allergies usually occur from September to November, and ragweed is the most common cause. However, other plants, such as sagebrush, goldenrod, and chrysanthemums, can also trigger fall allergies. While weed pollen still remains dense in the south, the air clears up fast with the introduction of colder weather. 

While rare, there can be winter allergies depending on where you live in the United States. For example, cedar trees remain active in December and January in the southern states while weeds are not necessarily dominant, but still prevalent in October and November. 

How long will seasonal allergies last?

The duration of seasonal allergies can vary from person to person, depending on various factors such as the severity of the seasonal allergy, the allergen, and the individual’s immune system. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, symptoms can vary between a few weeks to several months.  

The duration of spring allergies typically lasts from late February or early March through May, while summer allergies typically last from June to August. Fall allergies usually last from September to November. However, some individuals may experience allergy symptoms year-round, particularly if they are allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold. 

It is important to note that seasonal allergies are a chronic condition, and although the symptoms may come and go, they can recur every year during the same season. It is recommended to seek medical advice if allergy symptoms persist for an extended period or interfere with daily activities.

What are typical symptoms of allergies?

Seasonal allergies can cause a variety of symptoms that can impact daily activities. The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies are similar to those of other allergies and include: 

  • Sneezing 
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Postnasal drip 

However, seasonal allergies are characterized by the seasonal occurrence of these symptoms, which can be triggered by specific allergens such as pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. In addition to the typical symptoms, seasonal allergies may also cause: 

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Memory fog
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste 

It should be noted that symptoms like fatigue and irritability are not necessarily born out of seasonal allergies but because they make sleep difficult.

What do bad seasonal allergies feel like?

Severe allergic reactions are rare but can occur, and may include: 

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Wheezing 
  • Chest tightness
  • Rapid or weak pulse

If you experience severe allergy symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. In addition, it is recommended to identify the allergen causing the seasonal allergy and take appropriate measures to reduce exposure and manage symptoms. Such management can look like taking antihistamines, nasal sprays, or immunotherapy.

Am I sick or is it allergies?

While it might not seem like it, having allergies and being sick are distinct. You can have both simultaneously, but normal seasonal allergies do not equal being sick. Differences between the two include: 

  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Sore throat

When it comes to affecting the body, allergies will very rarely have anything to do with body aches. Fevers similarly are not possible with just allergies, showing up when an infection or virus develops in the system. A light sore throat can be developed by a cough or through active sinuses but is not necessarily caused by seasonal allergies when the pain is noticeably worse. 

Signs that you are sick will also come with more focused symptoms that extend away from the head and face. Whereas allergies will apply facial pressure and a minor headache, they won’t necessarily cause severe head pain aside from rare cases. 

How are seasonal allergies diagnosed?

According to Healthline, the professional diagnosis of seasonal allergies is not necessarily needed by everyone. In the cases that one is needed, doctors will typically test your blood. Further testing would be similar to normal allergy testing, which is to press substances against the skin to measure the reaction. However, advanced testing for seasonal allergies is rare. 

What is the best way to treat seasonal allergies?

Most people use antihistamines orally and nasal sprays recommended by their doctor. Typically, such medications can be purchased over-the-counter at local pharmacies. Tea and honey are known to be one of several at-home remedies effective for reducing the severity of allergy symptoms, as mentioned in a past article about preparing kids for cold and flu season

Are seasonal allergies curable?

At the time of writing, there are no outright cures for allergies that halt them altogether. However, modern medicine has found success in heavily reducing the severity of allergies in populations throughout the United States. Furthermore, many of those experienced in the field report that early preparation and planning have a constant positive impact on reducing seasonal allergies. Many medications offered by Call-On-Doc offer equal relief to those suffering from seasonal allergies!

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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