Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, occur when a person has an allergic reaction to the pollen from trees, weeds, or grasses. A person with a seasonal allergy can have the COVID-19 vaccine.

Seasonal allergies are common, with around 81 million people in the United States receiving a diagnosis in 2021. Around a quarter of U.S. adults and a fifth of U.S. children experience seasonal allergies.

Some people who experience seasonal allergies may be concerned about having an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, a person is only likely to have an allergic reaction from the COVID-19 vaccine if they have an allergy to one of the ingredients in the vaccine.

This article answers questions a person may have about getting the vaccine when they have seasonal allergies.

For more on COVID-19, including the latest news and updates, see our dedicated hub.

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COVID-19 is a disease that develops from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including a cough, fever, and loss of sense of taste and smell.

As with seasonal allergies, COVID-19 can also cause congestion and a runny nose. However, the two conditions are not the same and have different causes.

COVID-19 vaccination aims to help the body build up protection against the virus and reduce the chance of severe illness and hospitalization.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, to the COVID-19 vaccination are rare, with these reactions occurring in around 5 cases per 1 million vaccines given.

The CDC recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for people with allergies, unless they have an allergy related to vaccines or injectable medications.

The vaccine is recommended for people with seasonal allergies and other allergies related to environmental factors, pets, food, latex, or venom.

The vaccine is not a live virus and is also safe for people with immunodeficiency, asthma, or mast cell disorder.

Doctors may recommend monitoring a person for up to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccination if they have or have had:

  • a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
  • an immediate reaction to the vaccine
  • a mild reaction to a previous COVID-19 vaccine

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Anyone who regularly uses nasal sprays for allergies or over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication such as Zyrtec should continue taking it when getting the vaccine.

A person does not need to miss a dose of their regular OTC allergy medication on the day of their vaccination.

A person should not take OTC pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine unless they already take these medications regularly.

Preemptively taking OTC pain medications and anti-inflammatories can reduce the vaccine’s ability to create antibodies and stop it from working as it should.

If a person is having allergen-specific immunotherapy (AIT) — a treatment that has long-term benefits on allergy symptoms — they may need to wait between their dose and having the vaccine. A doctor can advise on this.

For people who have allergy shots for seasonal allergies, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends waiting 48 hours between their last shot and the vaccine, in case a reaction occurs.

Other studies suggest that a person undergoing AIT may need to wait longer between their last dose and the vaccine. One article suggests that:

  • A person having subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) should have a break from the treatment for a week before the vaccine and again after the vaccine.
  • A person having sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) or oral immunotherapy (OIT) should continue taking their medication until the day before the vaccination and then have a break of 2–7 days after the vaccine.
  • If a person is due to begin a new course of SCIT, SLIT, or OIT, they should delay their treatment until a week after their second vaccination.

A doctor can advise on the best strategy.

What is hay fever?

A small number of conditions may exclude a person from getting the vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that a person should not be vaccinated if:

  • They have a history of severe allergic reactions to any of the ingredients of the vaccine.
  • They currently have, or suspect that they have, COVID-19. If a person has confirmed or suspected COVID-19, they should wait until their acute symptoms have passed and they have completed the mandated isolation period before getting the vaccine.
  • They have a fever over 101.3ºF (38.5ºC) on the day they are due to have the vaccine. If so, the person should wait until they have recovered before getting the vaccine.

If a person has previously had a severe allergic reaction to one or more of the ingredients of the vaccine, they may still be able to have the vaccine in some circumstances. For example, they might have another type of COVID-19 vaccine or have the vaccine while under observation.

An individual should speak with their doctor about their options.

The CDC recommends speaking with a doctor before having the vaccine in cases where a person:

  • has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine; in which case, a doctor may recommend a different type of COVID-19 vaccine
  • is allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, as some types of COVID-19 vaccine contain these ingredients
  • has an allergy to other types of vaccines
  • has an allergy to other injectable medications for other diseases

A person should also seek medical advice before having the vaccine if they have a short-term illness, such as the flu, at the time of vaccination.

Find more information about seasonal allergies in our dedicated hub, including the worst plants, the best places to live, and more.

There is no evidence to suggest that a person with seasonal allergies is more likely to have an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. People with seasonal allergies should get the vaccine unless a doctor advises against it for another reason.

Anyone who is concerned about possible reactions to any of the vaccine ingredients should discuss their options with a doctor. A different type of COVID-19 vaccine may be available.

Anyone undergoing AIT treatment should check with their doctor about when to get the vaccine based on their current treatment schedule.