Seasonal Allergies: When is Allergy Season?

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Seasonal Allergies: When is Allergy Season?

written by Ryan Quinn Written by Ryan Quinn
Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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reviewed by Renee Rulin, MD, MPH Reviewed by Renee Rulin, MD, MPH
Renee Rulin, MD, MPH

Renee Rulin, MD, MPH

Dr. Rulin is a Board Certified Family Physician with experience treating adults and children of all ages. She completed a residency at Brown University and received a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Rulin enjoys being outdoors as much as the New England weather will allow, enjoys reading and cooking, and practices yoga and meditation.

April 18, 2022 Read Time - 11 minutes

Learn More About Seasonal Allergies and Allergy Season

Allergies are a common ailment. Each year, over 50 million Americans experience an allergy of some type, and allergies are the sixth most common cause of chronic illness in the United States. They can occur in winter, spring, summer or fall – it all depends on what a person is allergic to. Most seasonal allergies, like pollen allergies, are airborne.

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When is Allergy Season?

Depending on your specific allergies, allergy season can occur year-round, but most people experience the most severe allergy symptoms during the spring and summer. 

“Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer and ragweed in the late summer and fall,” according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.”

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are an allergic or inflammatory response to seasonal triggers, such as pollen or insects. An individual who has a seasonal allergy may experience an allergic response during the season in which their allergy triggers are present.

The different kinds of seasonal allergies include:

  • Respiratory allergies and eye allergies – Common triggers for respiratory and eye allergies include pollen from trees, grass, and weeds. These allergens are among the most common seasonal allergies.
  • Insect bites and stings – Bee and wasp stings, ant bites, cockroaches, and more can cause allergic reactions. Bees are more active when there is warmer weather, making bee allergies seasonal. In climates with discrete seasons, insects can be considered seasonal allergies.
  • Skin allergies – Plant oils like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can trigger skin allergies. These are often only a threat when the leaves are out in the summer and fall.

Non-Seasonal Allergies

  • Respiratory or eye allergies triggered by dust mites, mold spores, or cat, dog, rodent, and cockroach dander.
  • Food allergies – Common triggers include peanuts, milk, shellfish, soy, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, and fish.
  • Drug allergies – The most common drug allergy is penicillin. Up to 20% of hospital patients experience bad drug reactions.
  • Skin allergies Latex, certain metals, or sunlight can trigger a skin allergy.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal allergies are generally the same year to year and include:

  • Sneezing (most common)
  • Itchy, red, watery, and swollen eyes (common)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (common)
  • Cough (sometimes)
  • Fatigue (sometimes)
  • Sore throat (sometimes)

Can seasonal allergies cause a fever? Although allergic rhinitis may be referred to as “hay fever,” allergies typically do not cause a fever.

When Does Allergy Season Start?

When is allergy season? Allergy season can occur year-round depending on your specific seasonal allergies and geographic location. With that said, allergy season is typically the most severe during the spring months, especially during the first week of May. This is because seasonal allergies are commonly triggered by pollen, which is most prevalent during spring and summer.

Seasonal Allergy Map – Seasonal Allergies by Region

Depending on what area in the United States you live in, allergy season can begin at different times, due to differences in when tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollen levels begin to increase. When does allergy season end? The answer will largely be based on your location.

USA-Seasonal-Tree-Pollen-Allergy-Map-Accuweather

Source: AccuWeather

Spring Allergies

Spring is the most symptomatic season for somebody with a pollen allergy, as this is when grasses, weeds, and trees release small particles into the air. Once in the air, pollen can float on the wind for miles.

When pollen gets into the nose or eye, the immune systems of allergic people will try to fight or expel the perceived threat by triggering seasonal allergy symptoms such as sneezing.

Summer Allergies

A pollen allergy will likely continue through the summer. Trees have mostly shed their flowers and stopped producing pollen, but weeds and grass continue to put allergens into the air throughout the summer.

A few new allergens arrive on the scene along with warmer weather. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac leaf produce oils that can cause reactions.

In some cities, smog and pollution can worsen and trigger seasonal allergies. Insects, including common allergenic species such as bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants, become more active in the summer. Mold grows well in damp climates, and for many regions, dampness can peak in the summer. Dust mites also hit their stride in the warm, moist summer season.

Fall Allergies

The majority of plants cease producing pollen, but ragweed might still be in the air. Ragweed releases pollen in August through October, and pollen from ragweed can travel hundreds of miles through the air.

Mold will also persist to cause seasonal allergies through the fall. Mold does well in damp areas, which are often found in the basement or bathroom during the summer. In the fall, piles of leaves hold onto water and can serve as an excellent host for mold spores.

With the cooler air arriving, the fall is likely the season when the heat gets turned on for the first time in a while. Pollen, mold, and dust all collect in the vents during the summer. The first time the heat gets turned, all of those particles are blown into the air and distributed through the house.

To help prevent this from causing seasonal allergy symptoms, clean the air vents and change air filters throughout the house. Using a HEPA filter in your heating system will help maintain good air quality.

Winter Allergies

Symptoms of a pollen allergy will likely be absent during the winter. However, dust mites and mold might be more aggravating during the winter for some people. This occurs when people spend more time indoors where mold, dust mites, and pet dander are more likely to be found.

How Long Do Seasonal Allergies Last?

How long does it take for seasonal allergies to go away? Seasonal allergies typically occur at the same time each year and last as long as the allergen is present, which can range from 2 to 3 weeks. Over-the-counter and prescription seasonal allergy medicine can provide allergy relief during allergy season.

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What Helps Relieve Allergies Fast?

Over-the-counter and prescription seasonal allergy medicine can help ease seasonal allergy symptoms quickly. Some effective seasonal allergy medicines include:

  • Antihistamines Allergic reactions produce histamines, which trigger immune responses in the body. Antihistamines reduce or block histamines in the bloodstream and thus help to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. For many allergies, antihistamines are the best option to try first, but they do not treat all symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Antihistamines can also help in treating insect stings and bites. However, antihistamines will only help with the itching. Additional treatments for other symptoms are warranted, especially for severe reactions.

  • Epinephrine – If a person is experiencing an anaphylactic, or severe allergic reaction to an insect sting, then an epinephrine shot should be injected, followed by a call to 911. Mild reactions can be treated with ice on the bite or sting to reduce swelling, pain relievers, and topical creams such as calamine or hydrocortisone.
  • Decongestants Allergies cause the lining of the nasal passage to swell, producing a sensation of a stuffy nose. Antihistamines do not help this, but decongestants reduce swelling in blood vessels and tissues helping to reduce congestion. Many common allergy medications combine antihistamines and decongestants into one. Decongestants help open up the nasal passageway but do not help with sneezing or itching.
  • Nasal steroids – These can help treat seasonal allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchiness, congestion, postnasal drip, and watery eyes. Nasal steroids are often the first recommendation for allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
  • Eye drops – Eye drops can help relieve itchy and watery eyes.
  • Prescription medications – If over-the-counter options do not work, prescription medications can be taken. Contact a top U.S. doctor at PlushCare to get a recommendation.
  • Immunotherapy – As a periodic treatment to help the body build up a tolerance, immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) gradually introduces allergens into the system. Initial injections are given once or twice a week for 3 to 6 months. Then, subsequent treatments are given every 2 to 4 weeks for approximately 4 years.
  • Preventative treatment – One of the best ways to find relief from allergies is to avoid contact with the allergen that induces symptoms. This is easier done with something like a food allergy, but a pollen allergy can be more difficult.

How to Ease Seasonal Allergies at Home

Some tips that can help ease seasonal allergy symptoms at home include: 

  • Keeping doors and windows closed
  • Washing hair and changing clothes after going outside
  • Vacuuming frequently
  • Keeping humidity in your home in an unfavorable range for dust mites (30 – 50%)
  • Using an air conditioner and air purifier
  • Staying inside when pollen counts are high

What is an Allergy Forecast?

An allergy forecast can help a person with a pollen allergy minimize their symptoms. Allergy forecasts utilize historical pollen data and weather forecasts within a model to predict pollen counts in the near future. An allergy forecast can be just as uncertain as a weather forecast, if not more, so take predictions of pollen counts with a bit of skepticism.

Allergies and Asthma

Asthma symptoms or an asthma attack can be triggered by allergies as well as illness. Both non-allergenic and allergy-induced asthma have similar symptoms that include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

Allergy-induced asthma is caused by a reaction of the small airways in the lungs to an allergen. 

Non-allergenic asthma can involve a wide range of triggers, including:

  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Hyperventilation
  • Smoke
  • Cold or dry air
  • Other irritants

If you are not sure if you have allergy-induced asthma or non-allergenic asthma, you can find out by contacting a doctor. They can provide a referral for a blood test or skin test and determine if allergies trigger your asthma. Whether you have allergy-induced asthma or non-allergenic asthma, asthma treatment online can provide relief from your symptoms.

Allergies, Colds and Sinus Infection

Symptoms of a cold or upper respiratory infection are very similar to seasonal allergy symptoms and the two can be easy to confuse. One difference between them is in how they are triggered. Allergies involve an immune system response, whereas in a cold or upper respiratory infection,. the virus itself irritates the sinuses.

Sinusitis can occur as a complication after allergies or a cold, and can be due to a bacterial infection. If sinusitis is caused by bacterial infection and symptoms persist longer than seven to ten days, then antibiotics might be an important component of your sinusitis treatment. Contact a doctor to help determine whether or not your symptoms are allergenic or not.

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When to Contact a Doctor

Most seasonal allergy symptoms are mild and treatable with over-the-counter medications, while other symptoms may not require any treatment. Contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Chronic sinus infections, congestion, or difficulty breathing
  • Symptoms of allergies several months out of the year
  • Undesirable side effects or no symptom improvement from over-the-counter seasonal allergy medicine
  • Asthma or allergies inhibit day-to-day activities or quality of life
  • Warning signs of serious asthma attacks such as difficulty breathing, wheezing or coughing, or tightness in the chest

Medicine for allergy relief can cause side effects and complications when combined with other drugs. Talking to a doctor before taking over-the-counter medications may be helpful. It is particularly important to contact a doctor before using allergy medicine if:

  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • You have chronic health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, osteoporosis, or high blood pressure
  • You are currently taking other medications
  • You are treating allergies in a child
  • You are treating allergies in elderly patients
  • Your current allergy medicine is not working

A visit with a doctor or allergist might include:

  • Allergy testing
  • Education
  • Prescriptions
  • Immunotherapy, which is a treatment that periodically injects allergens with the goal of desensitizing the body, resulting in allergy relief

It is extremely important to seek immediate medical attention if someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If this occurs, administer an epinephrine shot and call 911 immediately. Such reactions are life-threatening, and you should not wait to see if symptoms dissipate.

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Find Allergy Relief Today

If you think you might have an allergy or need medical advice on managing the symptoms of allergies, call or book online with PlushCare to set up an online appointment with a top U.S. doctor. To get started, book an appointment today.


Read More About Seasonal Allergies


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Seasonal Allergies. Accessed on April 5, 2021 at https://acaai.org/allergies/seasonal-allergies 

Mayo Clinic. Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud. Accessed on April 5, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/in-depth/seasonal-allergies/art-20048343 

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy Treatments. Accessed on April 5, 2021 at https://www.aafa.org/allergy-treatments/

Accuweather. AccuWeather’s 2022 US spring allergy forecast. Accessed on April 15, 2022 at https://www.accuweather.com/en/health-wellness/accuweather-2022-us-spring-allergy-forecast/1153861 

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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