Seasonal Allergies

Triggers, Testing, and Treatment

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer with symptoms from seasonal allergies, you know the effects can range from bothersome to debilitating. What’s more, allergies can affect adults, as well as children, and even develop later in life.

Fortunately, there are tests to help determine the causes of outdoor and indoor allergies. There are also many effective seasonal allergy treatments available, even over the counter, that can help manage symptoms and make seasonal transitions more enjoyable. 

Learn more about Quest’s respiratory allergy tests. They’re available to purchase without a doctor’s visit.  

Common Respiratory Allergy Panel – Basic 14

Common Respiratory Allergy Panel – Expanded 25

What triggers seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, affect millions of people every year. In 2018, about 24 million people in the US were diagnosed with seasonal allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. That breaks down to about 19.2 million adults and 5.2 million children.1,2

These allergic reactions happen when your immune system overreacts to what’s called an allergen—something that causes an allergic response. Pollen is a common type of allergen, and it can come from trees, weeds, plants, and grasses and be carried by the wind. Mold spores are another common allergen.

All year round

For many people, allergy symptoms are worse in the spring. But allergens are lurking all year round. Here’s a look at the main problematic allergens by season.

  • Spring: Airborne plant and tree pollens 
  • Summer: Grass pollens 
  • Fall: Weed pollens (ragweed)
  • Winter: Mold spores

Common year-round indoor allergens:

  • Cat & dog dander
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Mouse Urine

What are the most common seasonal allergy symptoms?

When your body reacts to an allergen, you may have one or more symptoms that involve the respiratory tract, including sneezing, coughing, as well as itching. These symptoms may come and go or hang on for longer periods of time.

Some of the most common allergy symptoms are:

  • Sneezing
  • Irritated eyes (swelling, redness, watering, itching, and/or puffiness)
  • Congestion
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itchy nose, ears, or mouth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Increased asthma symptoms

Can I develop an allergy later in life? 

It’s interesting to note that even though most people experience allergic rhinitis or asthma for the first time when they are children, allergies can appear at any age. Sometimes allergies will show up for the first time for adults in their 30s, and all the way up into their 70s. 

Scientists have still not figured out why people who had no previous allergies are affected later in life. Most of us are exposed to a majority of potential allergens throughout our lives. So why does an allergy suddenly happen in adulthood? Scientists don’t yet fully understand what triggers an allergy in the first place. If they did, this would help us understand how to prevent them.

What type of seasonal allergy testing is available?

It goes without saying that discovering the cause of your allergies, before the sneezing and sniffles begin, might help you better manage these symptoms. Seasonal allergy testing is a great way to help you identify triggers. There is no set rule about how often you should do allergy testing. You may consider testing every two years, depending on the severity of recurring symptoms.3

Blood tests 

With this allergy test, a blood sample is drawn and checked for the levels of antibodies your immune system produces in response to common indoor and outdoor allergens. It’s a quick, convenient way to test for multiple allergens at one time. There’s no need to stop any allergy medications you may currently be taking and no risk of severe allergic reactions to an allergen.

Quest Respiratory Allergy Blood tests

Quest offers respiratory allergy blood tests that can be purchased online, with no doctor’s visit required. They can help identify your immune system’s response to as many as 25 common respiratory and environmental allergens.

Only a healthcare provider or an allergy specialist can diagnose an allergy and prescribe medication, so it’s important to have your results evaluated. After your purchase, Quest offers you the option of speaking with an independent physician about your results at no additional cost.


Skin tests 

Another way to identify reactions to different allergens is a skin test. These tests must be done in your healthcare provider’s office. A doctor will introduce small amounts of diluted allergens to your skin with small, thin needles, or plastic needle-like devices. It can take 15-20 minutes for your skin to show a reaction, which often appears as what’s called a wheal—an itchy, red bump that looks like a mosquito bite.  

While skin tests may be the more appropriate testing method in certain cases, they do require stopping any allergy medication a few days before testing. There’s also a small chance of a severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, during the test. This is not the case with blood allergy testing.

How can I manage and treat seasonal allergies?

Once you’ve done allergy testing and discussed your symptoms and medical history with your doctor, he or she will put together an allergy treatment plan just for you. 

There are 3 general types of treatments for allergies:

Allergen avoidance

This involves limiting exposure to or removing the sources of allergens from your immediate environment. This will reduce the need for medications. Cleansing allergens from your nose with a neti pot each day can also be helpful.


  • Nasal corticosteroids- Nasal sprays that help reduce swelling in the nasal passages
  • Antihistamines- Pills, liquids, tablets, or sprays that target histamines and help reduce allergy symptoms
  • Decongestants- Sprays or pills that work to shrink swollen nasal membranes
  • Corticosteroids, creams, and ointments- Help relieve itchy skin and stop rashes from spreading
  • Oral corticosteroids- May be prescribed by a doctor for severe allergic reactions 


For some patients, immunotherapy is a treatment option. This involves introducing small amounts of an allergen, either as an injection or sublingually (under the tongue). The amount of the allergen used is increased over time until the person becomes less sensitive to that allergen. Immunotherapy works better for some allergies and patients than others. Make sure to talk about the risks and benefits with a doctor.

If you’re having symptoms, check out our respiratory allergy tests, available for purchase online—no doctor visit required. 

Common Respiratory Allergy Panel – Basic 14

Common Respiratory Allergy Panel – Expanded 25


American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (2018). Allergy Facts.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). FastStats: Allergies and Hay Fever. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. How Often Should I Be Retested for Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.