What Are Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

You don't have to be miserable each time the flowers bloom.

Seasonal allergies, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are something that millions of Americans deal with every year. About 25.7% of adults 18 and older have seasonal allergies.

Because seasonal allergies often begin at the tail-end of cold and flu season—and can coincide with other illnesses like COVID-19—it can be hard to tell if you're suffering from just allergies. That's because seasonal allergy symptoms can include things from a runny nose to sneezing and coughing.

Here's more about seasonal allergies—including how you can pinpoint whether you're suffering from pesky seasonal allergies and what to do to start feeling better.

What Causes Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

Symptoms of seasonal allergies happen because of pollen and occasionally airborne mold spores. Your immune system will react to those allergens and release chemicals that cause the symptoms.

Allergy season typically starts as soon as the trees begin to start budding. That differs across the US and according to which allergies you experience. For the most part, tree pollen season is from late February to June, grass season lasts all summer, and ragweed allergies start in August and last until the end of fall.

Typical signs of seasonal allergies you might experience as allergy season approaches can be found below.


You likely think of sneezing when it comes to seasonal allergies. One study found that sneezing was more severe and common in seasonal allergies.

Any irritation of the nose or throat mucous membranes can lead to sneezing. However, sneezing rarely indicates something serious about your health.

Congestion or Runny Nose

Nasal congestion, or a stuffy nose, is a common seasonal allergy symptom. This congestion occurs because blood vessels in the nose's tissue lining become inflamed and cause it to swell. A congested nose can also result in a runny nose, where mucus discharges from a person's nostrils.

Nasal congestion can also be one of the most aggravating symptoms of allergies. The authors of one study said that it is so impactful it can have a negative effect on a person's quality of life.


It's not uncommon for you to cough when you have seasonal allergies. The coughing is the result of airway swelling or irritation. Coughing due to allergies normally consists of dry coughs and is considered chronic. Also, coughing is another immune system reaction to allergens—not an infection.

Watery Eyes

Have watery eyes? You're probably dealing with seasonal allergies.

Not only might you have watery eyes, but you might also have eye itchiness, redness, and burning. This is known as allergic conjunctivitis. The condition happens because of a swollen or inflamed conjunctiva, a clear tissue lining of the eyelids. As the amount of pollen in the air increases, allergic conjunctivitis symptoms can get worse.


Seasonal allergies can also result in itchiness. Histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during allergic reactions, is responsible for the itchiness you might experience.

Of note, itchiness may occur not only in the eyes or throat but also in the nose and mouth.


When you have seasonal allergies, you can feel fatigued. One paper stated that 48% of individuals with seasonal allergic rhinitis reported having sleep issues. The authors indicated that nasal congestion and increased cytokines—substances in the body following an allergic reaction—may lead to fatigue.

Other Possible Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Though there are a few main symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis, other possible signs may also appear. They include:

  • Problems with smell
  • Clogged ears
  • Sore throat
  • Dark undereye circles or undereye puffiness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches

Symptoms in Children

Seasonal allergies appear to happen more often among children. Kids will have some of the same symptoms as adults, like nasal congestion and sneezing. However, chronic ear problems—such as ear infections—are also common regarding allergies in children.

How To Tell if It's Seasonal Allergies—Or Something Else

Though seasonal allergies can cause coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose, they never cause a fever or general aches and pains. They are also not contagious, unlike colds, the flu, or COVID-19.

Also, another hallmark symptom of seasonal allergies isn't usually associated with illnesses like the common cold: itching. If you have symptoms of allergies, including itching, seasonal allergies are likely the culprit.

Seasonal allergy symptoms will also stop when a person is no longer in the presence of an allergy. So if you're only coughing and sneezing around the same parts of the year, that can be a good indicator of allergies only. Also, if you have asthma, seasonal allergies can make your asthma symptoms worse.

Still, if you're unsure of what makes you sick or have overlapping symptoms with other conditions, it's best to consult a healthcare provider. They can help determine if you have other comorbid illnesses that may warrant additional medical care.

Treatments for Seasonal Allergies

There are different treatments available for seasonal allergy symptoms:

  • Avoid—or limit exposure to—the allergens causing issues with seasonal allergies. Doing this includes methods such as keeping windows and doors closed while indoors or while riding or sitting in a car, or wearing a mask during lawn work.
  • Use oral medications or nasal sprays. Oral antihistamine medications, such as Zyrtec Allergy or Allegra Allergy, can help relieve symptoms except for nasal congestion. Additionally, nasal sprays for allergies, like Flonase, have few side effects and can be more beneficial than oral allergy medications.
  • Consider allergy shots. When medications are not helpful, allergy shots may be another option. These allergy shots will be administered over a few years, so you can gradually build immunity to your specific allergen. However, these allergy shots are time-consuming, and not every person will get relief from the shots.

If you're used to your seasonal allergy symptoms and have a treatment plan nailed down that makes you feel best, stick to that plan with guidance from a healthcare provider. Still, if you're noticing symptoms you haven't had before, check in with a healthcare provider.

A Quick Review

Seasonal allergy symptoms include ones like sneezing and nasal congestion. Some seasonal allergy symptoms, like coughing or a runny nose, can be the same as those for other illnesses like colds and the flu. However, not all signs of seasonal allergies indicate different conditions.

If you find yourself constantly dealing with coughing, sneezing, or other allergy symptoms each year around the same time, it's wise to see an allergist. You'll also want to see a healthcare provider if you have symptoms beyond allergies that could point to other illnesses.

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