Skip Navigation
NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Feature:
Seasonal Allergies

Managing Your Seasonal Allergies

Allergic reactions occur when the body wrongly defends itself against something that is not dangerous.

A healthy immune system defends against invading bacteria and viruses. During allergic reactions, however, the immune system fights harmless materials, such as pollen or mold, by producing a special class of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE).

Weed Pollen

Ragweed and other weeds, such as curly dock, lambs quarters, pigweed, plantain, sheep sorrel, and sagebrush are prolific producers of pollen allergens. Ragweed season runs from August to November, but pollen levels usually peak by mid-September in many areas in the country. Pollen counts are highest in the morning, and on dry, hot, windy days.


Protecting yourself

  • Between 5:00 and 10:00 a.m., stay indoors. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. Keep cool with air conditioners. Don't use window or attic fans.
  • Use a dryer, not a line outside; dry your clothes and avoid collecting pollen on them.

Fast Facts

  • Allergies are reactions of your immune system to one or more things in the environment.
  • The immune system is your body's defense system. In allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm.
  • Pollens and mold spores can cause seasonal allergies.
  • Allergies from pollens and molds can cause runny and blocked noses, sneezing, nose and eye itching, runny and red eyes, or asthma. Allergies typically make you feel bad.

Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Grass Pollen

Grass pollens are regional as well as seasonal. Their levels also are affected by temperature, time of day, and rain. Only a small percentage of North America's 1,200 grass species cause allergies, including:

  • Bermuda grass
  • Johnson grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Sweet vernal grass
  • Timothy grass
  • Orchard grass

Protecting yourself

  • Between 5:00 and 10:00 a.m., stay indoors. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. Keep cool with air conditioners. Don't use window or attic fans.
  • Use a dryer, not a line outside; dry your clothes and avoid collecting pollen on them.
  • Have someone else mow your lawn. If you mow, wear a mask.

Tree Pollen

Trees produce pollen earliest, as soon as January in the South, and as late as May and June in the Northeast. They release huge amounts that can be distributed miles away. Fewer than 100 kinds of trees cause allergies. The most common tree allergy is against oak, but others include elm, hickory, sycamore, and walnut.


Protecting yourself

  • Follow the same protective strategies related to time of day, closed windows, and clothes dryers noted in "Protecting yourself" under Grass Pollen, above.
  • Plant species that do not aggravate allergies, include crape myrtle, dogwood, fig, fir, palm, pear, plum, redbud, and redwood trees, or the female cultivars of ash, box elder, cottonwood, maple, palm, poplar, or willow trees.

Be Smart


Treat respiratory allergy with antihistamines, topical nasal steroids, cromolyn sodium, decongestants, or immunotherapy.
Read More "Seasonal Allergies" Articles

Managing Your Seasonal Allergies / Diagnosis, Treatment & Research

Spring 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 1 Page 24-25