CARE GUIDE Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal Allergies

When a person has seasonal allergies, the body’s immune system mistakenly treats everyday substances like pollen or mold as invaders. These substances are called allergens. An allergic reaction occurs as the immune system tries to fight off the allergen.

Seasonal allergies affect an estimated 40 to 50 million people in the United States.

  • Allergic rhinitis or hay fever is an allergy to pollen that is present in the air at certain times of year. Symptoms include itching in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, and eyes; sneezing; stuffy nose; runny nose; and tearing eyes.
  • Eye allergy or allergic conjunctivitis is an allergic reaction to pollen that affects the eyes. Eyes may become watery, itchy, sore, red or swollen.
  • Mold allergy is an allergic reaction to mold spores that are present in the air at certain times of year. Symptoms include sneezing; itchy, watery eyes; runny nose; nasal congestion or itchy nose, mouth and lips.

As seasonal allergies are diagnosed, treated and managed, you may see one or more of the following providers.

  • Allergist/Immunologist: Commonly referred to as an allergist, this type of doctor is specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage allergies, asthma and other immune system disorders.
  • Pediatric Allergist/Immunologist: This type of doctor is specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage allergies, asthma and other immune system disorders in children.
  • Internist or Family Physician: Doctors who provide general medical care for adults. Adults with seasonal allergies may initially be diagnosed and treated by an internist or family physician.
  • Pediatrician: Doctor who specializes in the medical care of children. Children with seasonal allergies may initially be diagnosed and treated by a pediatrician.

Preparing for Your Appointment

After you make an appointment for seasonal allergies diagnosis and treatment, there are some steps you can take to make your visit a smooth one.

  • Write down a list of your allergy symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to outdoor allergens.
  • Write down the times of year and times of day that you experience allergy symptoms.
  • Write down the types of plants and trees in your neighborhood, town and areas where you frequently spend time.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you’re taking. Include the dosage you are taking of each.

It’s important to write down any questions you have for the doctor about seasonal allergies, so you don’t forget to discuss your concerns. This list of common questions about the condition can help you get started.

Question About My Diagnosis

  • What makes me allergic to certain allergens?
  • How do I find out which plant pollens I am allergic to?
  • Will I need to see a specialist for my allergies? Will insurance pay for this?
  • How often will I need to see the specialist?

Questions About My Treatment

  • What type of medication is used to treat seasonal allergies? Are there side effects?
  • Will I have to take medication forever?
  • Will other medications I take interact with my allergy medication?
  • Can I drink alcohol while taking my allergy medication?
  • Am I a candidate for allergy shots? How do allergy shots work?

Questions About My Lifestyle and Family

  • Do I need to change my daily activities and routines to avoid my allergens?
  • Do I have to stay indoors during my allergy season?
  • Other than staying indoors, are there steps I can take to minimize exposure to my allergens?

Diagnosis and Treatment

At an appointment with an allergist, he or she will ask many questions about your medical history and perform tests to determine which allergens trigger your seasonal allergies. Skin tests and blood tests are the most common forms of allergy testing.

Skin Prick Test

  • To find out if your body produces antibodies that react to a specific allergen
  • A needle is used to place a tiny amount of allergen just below the surface of the skin on your lower arm or back.
  • If you are allergic to that allergen, there will be swelling or redness at the test site.

Blood Test

  • To measure the levels of specific antibodies to allergens, such as pollen and mold, in your blood
  • Antibodies to a specific allergen in the blood indicate a possible allergy to that allergen.


  • Oral medications or nasal sprays that relieve sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes and reduce swelling and drainage in the nose
  • Some have side effects, such as drowsiness and loss of alertness and coordination
  • Available in eye drops for eye allergy symptoms

Nasal corticosteroids

  • Nasal sprays that prevent or reduce inflammation in the sinuses and nasal passages

Cromolyn sodium

  • A nasal spray that helps prevent allergic rhinitis from starting by blocking the release of body chemicals that cause allergy symptoms


  • Oral medications that shrink nasal passages, which helps relieve congestion, swelling, and general discomfort in the sinuses and nose

Allergy shots

  • A series of injections containing small doses of your allergen, allowing your body to build up a natural immunity it

In addition, people with seasonal allergies can take the following steps to minimize contact with their seasonal allergens when possible.

Allergic rhinitis

  • Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.

Eye allergy

  • Wear sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim to reduce the amount of allergen that lands in the eyes.
  • Apply saline eye drops after being outdoors to wash allergens out of the eyes.

Mold allergy

  • Limit outdoor activities when mold counts are high.
  • Avoid uncut fields and raking leaves.
  • Take a shower after coming indoors to wash mold spores out of your hair.