Seasonal allergies occur at certain times of the year due to specific seasonal allergens. Seasonal allergens include tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollen. Tree and grass pollen are primarily spring allergens, while ragweed and mold allergens are primarily fall allergens.

Depending on the type of allergy, people may experience symptoms in the spring or fall.

This article examines the main spring and fall allergens, symptoms, and treatments.

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The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) notes that the main allergens in spring include tree and grass pollen.

Spring allergens begin in spring and can continue into the summer.

Tree pollen

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states that, in the United States, tree pollen season typically starts in February and ends in May, with most trees producing their pollen from March to May.

A person may experience allergic reactions to the following trees:

  • ash
  • alder
  • aspen
  • beech
  • birch
  • box elder
  • cottonwood
  • cedar
  • elm
  • maple
  • mulberry
  • oak
  • pecan
  • walnut
  • willow
  • hickory

Grass pollen

Grass pollen season begins in April and ends in June. In the northern U.S., grass pollen appears in the late spring. In the South, grass can produce its pollen throughout the year.

Some grasses that can cause allergy symptoms include:

  • fescue
  • Bermuda
  • bahia
  • timothy
  • Kentucky blue
  • Johnson

Ragweed is the most common fall allergen. Ragweed is a wild plant that grows across the U.S., but particularly in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Ragweed may release pollen from August to November, with pollen levels usually peaking early- to mid-September.

Indoor allergens may also cause fall allergies, including mold, pet dander, dust mites, or cockroaches.

The main difference between spring and fall allergies is the type of allergen that triggers symptoms. Tree and grass pollen are the main spring allergens, while ragweed pollen is the primary fall allergen.

Certain differences in climate might make a person’s allergy worse during a particular season, such as the following:

  • Tree, grass, and ragweed pollens flourish during warm days and cool nights.
  • Pollen counts rise on windy, warm days, and the levels peak in the morning hours.
  • Airborne allergies stay grounded on windless days.
  • Heat and high humidity cause mold to grow rapidly.
  • Although rain washes pollen away, pollen counts can significantly increase following rainfall.

Symptoms of seasonal allergies may vary for each person but may include:

  • runny nose
  • stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • red, watery eyes
  • swelling around the eyes
  • itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and ears
  • sore or scratchy throat
  • wheezing

Symptoms of seasonal allergies in children include:

  • runny nose
  • itchy eyes
  • sneezing
  • wheezing

Children with seasonal allergies may also have other allergies, a family history of allergies, or coexisting conditions, such as asthma.

Do the symptoms of seasonal allergies differ depending on the season?

Pollen allergies share the same symptoms, but people will only experience symptoms if the allergen is present in that season.

Mold symptoms are similar to other allergies affecting the respiratory tract.

Ways to manage seasonal allergies include avoiding triggers, such as:

  • tracking allergen counts, which usually appear in weather reports during allergy seasons
  • checking which times of the day pollen counts are highest, such as evening or morning, and avoiding going outdoors at these times
  • keeping the car and home windows and doors shut during allergy seasons
  • showering, washing the hair, and putting clothes in the wash to remove pollen after being outdoors
  • using a NIOSH-rated 95 (N95) filter mask when gardening, mowing the lawn, or working outdoors
  • taking an allergy medication before going outdoors during allergy seasons

Medications to help treat allergy symptoms include:

According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, people can begin medications 2 weeks before the symptoms of their seasonal allergies usually start. This helps support the immune system to better cope with seasonal allergens.

People can also take an antihistamine or corticosteroid nasal spray 2 hours before exposure to allergens to help manage symptoms. Immunotherapy may help deliver long-lasting relief for pollen allergies.

People can work with an allergist to create an individualized allergy treatment plan to help them manage seasonal allergies.

The following are frequently asked questions about spring and fall allergies.

Do symptoms of seasonal allergies differ in adults and children?

A 2017 study found that while children with allergic rhinitis — or hay fever — experienced more severe and intermittent symptoms than adults, they also experienced fewer, overall symptoms.

Children were also more likely to have co-occurring conditions alongside allergic rhinitis compared to adults.

Can a person develop seasonal allergies later in life?

It is possible for people to develop seasonal allergies in later life, but researchers are still unsure why these allergies may occur in adults.

Seasonal allergies develop due to an overreaction of the immune system to an allergen in the environment, such as pollen.

When does allergy season begin and end?

There is no specific time when allergy season starts or ends, as it depends on which type of allergen triggers a person’s symptoms.

In the U.S., May is usually the worst month for allergies due to increased pollen counts.

The AAFA notes that tree pollen season begins in February and ends in May. Grass pollen season begins in April and ends in June, and weed pollen runs from August to November.

What is the difference between bad seasonal allergies and COVID-19 symptoms

Both seasonal allergies and COVID-19 may cause the following symptoms:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath

Common allergy symptoms which are not symptoms of COVID-19 include itchy eyes, nose, or skin.

Symptoms of COVID-19, rather than allergies, include:

  • fever
  • nausea and vomiting
  • aching muscles
  • headaches
  • a loss of taste or smell

Seasonal allergies occur from the spring through to the fall. Spring allergens include tree and grass pollens. In the fall, ragweed is the most common allergen, as well as other weeds and mold.

People can manage seasonal allergies by avoiding going outdoors during peak pollen counts, washing their bodies and clothes after pollen exposure, and keeping windows and doors shut during allergy season.

Medications, such as antihistamines or allergy shots, can also help manage allergy symptoms. Taking medication before allergen exposure may help minimize symptoms.

People can see an allergist to help them create an allergy treatment plan to manage seasonal allergies.