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Seasons of hay fever

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Hay fever affects many people and is caused by an allergy to pollen. But did you know people are usually allergic to certain pollens and not others which is why people suffer hay fever at different points in the year? We’ll take you through matching your symptoms to the different pollens so you can get on top of your hay fever.

Doctor’s advice

Which pollen is released, and when?

Hay fever season in the US is typically between late March and September. Each pollen has its own timing for release during this period, and it also depends on in which part of the US you live. If you have symptoms in springtime, from early March to early May, tree pollens may be responsible, particularly birch. If you suffer in early summer, from May to July, grass pollen is more likely to blame. Weed pollen from plants, including nettle and dock, can cause symptoms from June to September.

How can this guide my hay fever treatment?

Keeping a diary of symptoms spanning a couple of years might point towards a pattern, which can help identify a particular allergen. It’s a good idea to start antihistamines or a steroid nasal spray two weeks before you anticipate hay fever season starting, so once you have worked out the particular allergen you’re sensitive to, you can put a date in your diary for every year, to remind you when to start your hay fever relief. This will reduce your symptoms and may even prevent them from occurring.

What if I can’t see a seasonal pattern?

Other allergens can trigger hay fever-like symptoms, and in this instance, we call it allergic rhinitis. It’s a similar disease process with similar nasal and eye symptoms. This may be something to consider if you can’t see a pattern, or are suffering symptoms all year round. These can include house dust mites, animal dander, and mold. Mold becomes more of a problem as moisture levels rise in the autumn.

You may also have these symptoms in response to environmental irritants, such as pollution or smoke, although this is an irritation rather than a true allergy.

Should I take an allergy test?

If your symptoms fit with hay fever, and you have a clear idea of which allergen is causing your symptoms, then an allergy test may add no further benefit.

If the diagnosis or particular trigger is unclear, or treatments have been unsuccessful, then your doctor may consider a referral to an allergist for skin testing.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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