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Questions About Seasonal Allergies

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.

Seasonal Allergies. Hay Fever.

Understanding the Difference Between Cold and Hay Fever Allergy Symptoms

Runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and general malaise are symptoms of illness that each of us faces. Do you know how to tell the difference between a cold and hay fever? It is easy to get them confused. Let's look at the symptoms, similarities, and differences between both diseases.  

First, the cold tends to be short-lived and lasts 3-14 days, while an allergy can torment you for several months. The duration of the symptoms depends on which pollen you are allergic to. Moreover, if your symptoms start at the same time every year, it's likely an allergy. With a cold, symptoms do not appear immediately after infection. In case of allergies, contact with pollen can immediately trigger a reaction.

Allergies cause clear nasal discharge, and itchy eyes, along with nasopharyngeal swelling. Pain is more common than itching, and the discharge is thick, often yellow-green in the cold. Allergies usually do not cause fever (if there is, it is not high) and sore throat.

Here's a breakdown of the similarities and differences between colds and hay fever allergies.

Hay Fever

  • can start suddenly when you just went outside
  • runny nose with profuse, thin, clear discharge, sneezing
  • watery eyes, itching in the eyes, redness, eyelid swelling
  • temperature (fever) rises rarely and slightly
  • moderate weakness, but irritability, insomnia, and reduced performance may appear
  • symptoms persist during the entire flowering period of a plant that is dangerous to you (from several months to six months)


  • comes on gradually with the onset of fatigue
  • then other symptoms develop
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • severe or moderate runny nose with viscous discharge, moderate sneezing
  • no or mild lacrimation
  • body aches, headaches
  • an increase in body temperature, especially in the first days of the disease
  • duration of illness is 1-2 weeks

Cross Allergy with Hay Fever

It happens that people with hay fever show allergy symptoms when they eat raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Why then? It's about cross-allergy: different fruits and plants have a similar protein composition. Also, our body considers such proteins to be equally dangerous. Therefore, it reacts negatively to plant pollen and fruit similar in composition. Most often, this reaction is observed in birch pollen. That is why, if you are allergic to tree pollen, a reaction to apples, for example, can develop.

How Can Cross Allergy Be Suspected?

  • oral allergy syndrome (OAS) develops
  • reaction to eating fresh fruits and vegetables
  • severe allergic reaction in the first minutes after consumption, very rarely — within an hour
  • swelling, itching, pain, burning, tingling in lips, gums, palate, tongue
  • red spots around the mouth, neck
  • lacrimation, sneezing, profuse runny nose, and eyelid swelling are possible

In 1-2% of cases, physicians record asthma attacks and Quincke's edema. As you can see, only a competent allergist can understand the complex mechanisms of the immune system and many allergens. Professional allergists collect complaints, identify the connection with various allergens and prescribe additional research methods: skin tests and laboratory tests.

Most often, signs of cross-allergy are short-lived and disappear on their own. This makes it difficult to diagnose for the following reasons.

  • Patients know they are allergic to pollen but do not know what cross-allergy is. Therefore, they cannot associate new symptoms with hay fever and ignore them.
  • Young children first develop symptoms of oral allergy syndrome (OAS), more often with the introduction of complementary foods. Children might cry and spit out food. Parents force children to eat, referring to their whims. Due to this fact, the allergic reaction gets more severe.

Examples of Cross Allergies

  • Birch (similar plants: hazel, alder, apple) - birch sap, various varieties of apples, cherries, plums, hazelnuts, potatoes, and carrots.
  • Wormwood (similar plants: chamomile, dandelion, sunflower) - certain types of citrus fruits, sunflower seeds in the form of oil or halva, and some varieties of flower honey.
  • Quinoa - beets, spinach leaves.
  • Cereals (seeds of oats, wheat, barley, etc.) - products made from these species, bread, pastries, cereals, etc.
  • Ambrosia (similar plants: common sunflower, dandelion) - sunflower seeds and food products from it, melon or other melons, banana.

6 Things That Make Seasonal Allergies Worse

Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are particularly good at trapping volatile allergens such as pollen. Therefore, during a period of high pollen concentration, it makes sense to switch to glasses. But if you do not want to give up lenses, and hard ones do not suit you, use disposable ones, which can be thrown away in the evening.


Stress makes a person nervous and irritated and more prone to a runny nose and other manifestations of hay fever. Recently, Ohio State University scientists conducted an experiment in which they observed 179 patients with hay fever. In two weeks of observation, 64% of participants with higher stress levels experienced more than four bouts of allergies! But the good news is that stress is easy to relieve - you just need to rest.


Have you ever felt a stuffy nose after a glass of red wine? If so, you are not alone. Red wine and beer can trigger allergy symptoms because they contain sulfur oxide, which is used as a preservative in winemaking.

Perfume and Candles

Any flavored product can irritate the lining of the eyelids and nasal passages. This applies to perfumes, scented candles, and incense. When pollens thrive, try to visit public places less often and completely get rid of the chemical aromas at home.


Swimming in a chlorinated pool can exacerbate allergic rhinitis. Chlorine is irritating to the respiratory tract. Indoor pools are worse than open ones since chlorine is not eroded but is concentrated in a relatively small room.

Passive Smoking

Tobacco smoke irritates the respiratory tract, triggering allergy symptoms. Stay away from smokers.

Learn More About Allergy

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