When it comes to seasonal allergies, symptoms that crop up in the spring tend to get a lot more attention than those that happen in the fall. But fall allergies can cause just as much misery as their spring counterparts.
"The symptoms are basically the same," Dr. Catherine Monteleone, an allergist-immunologist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. Dr. David Corry, professor of medicine-immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine, agrees. "Allergies are allergies," he tells Yahoo Life.
Fall allergies are usually sparked by ragweed, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), although certain plants like burning bush, cocklebur, lamb's quarters, pigweed, sagebrush, mugwort, tumbleweed and Russian thistle can also contribute.
So how can you tell if you have fall allergies and not a cold or other respiratory virus? Undergoing allergy testing from a board-certified allergist is the best way to know for sure, Monteleone says. However, there are a few signs that can be solid tip-offs you're dealing with fall allergies. Here's a breakdown.
Allergies sign #1: Your symptoms are dragging on
Fall allergy symptoms usually include the following, per the ACAAI:
While those symptoms can overlap with certain respiratory viruses, Dr. Tiffany Owens, an allergist-immunologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that fall allergy symptoms tend to last much longer than you'd see with a cold or the flu. "Fall allergy symptoms can last for several weeks to months," she says.
Allergies sign #2: You start feeling uncomfortable in late summer
Fall allergies typically show up in mid-August and last "until there is a hard freeze," say Owens. That's usually sometime in November. However, if you live in a warmer area of the country, your fall allergies could last even longer into winter.
A lot of this is weather-dependent, though. "If the winter is very mild, symptoms may not completely abate or take much longer to abate, extending well into winter," Corry says.
Allergies sign #3: You don't have a fever
Respiratory viruses like the flu and COVID-19 will often come with a fever, Corry points out. A fever, he says, "is never a part of allergies." Viruses are also more likely to make you feel wiped out, Owens says.
Allergies sign #4: You feel worse when you go outside
The biggest fall allergy triggers are plants that are outside. And, as a result, heading outdoors can make you experience symptoms. It's a little different for everyone, depending on how severe your allergies are. "Sometimes individuals will notice allergy symptoms while doing yard work, such as raking leaves or pruning plants," Owens says. Others may simply develop symptoms just from walking to their car. With a cold, though, your symptoms will be more consistent, no matter where you are, Monteleone says.
Allergies sign #5: You get relief from antihistamines
When you're exposed to an allergen (i.e. something you have an allergy to), your body releases signaling molecules called histamines. Histamines spark an immune reaction in your body that leads to allergy symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes, Monteleone explains.
Antihistamines are medications that block or tamp down on this process, and taking an antihistamine when you have symptoms should help you get at least some level of relief. "An antihistamine will help with allergies, but they don't really help with a cold, other than to dry out your nasal passages," Monteleone says.
Again, the best way to get relief is to see a board-certified allergist, get tested and come up with a personalized treatment plan together. Just know this: "If you tend to have a bad month or two, starting in late summer, you're probably dealing with fall allergies," Monteleone says.
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