How do I Know if I Am Allergic to Pollen?

Sheri Cyprus

The main thing to recognize about being allergic to pollen is that it is a seasonal allergy. In the spring and summer, when the microscopic, grain-like parts of a plant called pollen travel in the wind to fertilize other plants in the process called cross-pollination, people who are outdoors may breathe in the granules. People who aren't allergic to pollen won't be significantly affected, while those who are will experience nose and throat irritation as well as other noticeable symptoms. Sneezing and a runny or congested nose are the most common symptoms of a pollen allergy.

An allergy to pollen can cause watery eyes.
An allergy to pollen can cause watery eyes.

If you notice that you're sneezing more than usual when outside in the spring or summer, this could be the first sign that you may be allergic to pollen. Dust or other irritants could also cause sneezing, so that symptom alone is not enough to confirm an allergy. Other symptoms of a pollen allergy include watery eyes and itchy skin. Some people with pollen allergies also experience nausea, vomiting, and headaches, but these symptoms are not as common.

A skin test, conducted in a doctor's office, can determine a pollen allergy.
A skin test, conducted in a doctor's office, can determine a pollen allergy.

Hay fever and seasonal allergic rhinitis are other terms for pollen allergy. A person may have a pollen allergy from one or more specific sources, such as a certain type of tree. Trees, flowers, weeds, and grasses all distribute pollen seasonally. It might be difficult, but you may be able to notice a pattern to help you tie your allergy symptoms to a certain kind of pollen. For example, if you notice yourself sneezing each time you're working with certain weeds in your garden, this could suggest you may be allergic to pollen from that source.

Going to a doctor with experience in diagnosing and treating allergies can help you confirm or rule out a pollen allergy. Allergy testing is conducted in two main ways; a skin test followed by blood testing is usually considered a reliable method for diagnosing a nasal allergy. Small particles of pollen from different sources are placed under the skin on the arm or back. Reactions such as swelling or redness indicate that the person is likely to have a pollen allergy; a blood test that can confirm the allergy is then administered.

Two common allergy blood tests are the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the radioallergosorbent (RAST). A blood test without skin testing is not usually considered as effective in diagnosing pollen allergy. If high amounts of allergic antibodies (IgE) are in the blood of a person who has had a reaction to an allergy skin test, the diagnosis is made. If you experience redness or swelling during an allergy skin test and blood testing shows IgE, it's likely that your doctor will confirm that you are allergic to pollen.

Pollen allergies impact suffers in the spring and summer when pollen particles are able to fly freely.
Pollen allergies impact suffers in the spring and summer when pollen particles are able to fly freely.

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Discussion Comments


I used to love to be able to keep my windows open in the spring and fall, but since I developed allergies I am no longer able to do that. Not only would I get the scratchy throat and swollen eyes, but sometimes I would also break out in an allergic rash.

When I am inside, keeping the air conditioner on helps. If I am going to be outside for an extended period of time, I always take some medication before I go outside to help control the symptoms. It can get kind of frustrating, but is better than suffering the miserable consequences.


Suffering from allergies related to pollen is miserable. You don't even have to hear on the news if the pollen count is high or not, because your itchy eyes and runny nose are already telling you it is going to be a bad day.

For years I took over the counter medications for my seasonal allergies, but finally got tested and began receiving allergy shots to help with my symptoms. This has made a big difference, but has not totally gotten rid of them.

If you are suffering from a summer cold, it really may be allergies from pollen. Many of the symptoms are the same, but allergies are not contagious and are not passed from one person to another like the cold virus is.

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