The #1 Unexpected Sign of Seasonal Allergies Most People Miss, According to Allergists

Woman with seasonal allergies

Chances are, if you have seasonal allergies, you know it: Your eyes may get puffy, itchy and dry (or watery); you may sneeze relentlessly; your throat may be sore or scratchy, your nose may be itchy, runny or stuffy (or, if you really hit the jackpot, all three simultaneously). It's not fun, and it can make some of us root for nuclear winter (or at least look up Antarctic real estate) for a sense of relief.

That said, even if you don't experience those specific miseries, you may still have seasonal allergies and not even know it—because some symptoms are really sneaky.

Related: Severe Allergy Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

What Is the Most Unexpected Sign of Seasonal Allergies?

This one was surprising, even to some of us who've been sniffling since March: sometimes your mouth will itch when your mouth itches when you eat certain foods during allergy season, which is also known as oral allergy syndrome, according to Dr. Martin Smith, MD, allergist and immunologist and founder of Untoxicated Skincare.

"If you have seasonal allergies, especially to birch tree pollen, you may experience a strange itchy sensation when you eat certain fresh fruits and vegetables. It's called oral allergy syndrome, and it happens as your body confuses the proteins in these foods to be that of the proteins found in the pollen you are allergic to," Dr. Smith explains. "It is a very mild form of food allergy, usually limited to itching and mild swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue and throat."

According to Dr. Smith, the foods that most commonly trigger oral allergy syndrome include:

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Celery

  • Kiwi

  • Melon

  • Onions

  • Parsley

  • Peaches

  • Pears

Other pitted fruits and some other vegetables may also trigger reactions, and it can vary from patient to patient, so you may want to keep a log of what you eat and how you feel afterward just in case.

How to get around oral allergy syndrome? Thankfully, it's not too hard, Dr. Smith says, so there's no need to massively overhaul your diet this summer.

"A quick hack to avoid this is by peeling the fruit, or heating it in the microwave for a few seconds, as heat often destroys the protein responsible for the reaction," he recommends.

Related: Can Allergies Make You Feel Sick?

What Are Other Overlooked Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

According to allergist and immunologist Dr. Brian Greenberg, MD, other reactions to seasonal allergies that may fly under the radar include:

  • Allergic shiners (which can look like black eyes in more severe cases or plain dark circles in milder cases)

  • Brain fog

  • Exhaustion

  • Poor sleep

"Many people will confuse this with a cold and then make treatment decisions that might not be quite as effective as it would be if they knew it was allergic," Dr. Greenberg says.

Related: How to Get Rid of Spring Allergies Fast

How Can You Mitigate Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

There are a few methods you can use to ease your symptoms during allergy season, and you can prevent them as well if you put the work in, Dr. Smith and Dr. Greenberg note. They recommend:

  • Investing in an air purifier for your home (especially for your bedroom)

  • Using allergy-proof mattress and pillow covers

  • Vacuuming and dusting your bedroom frequently

  • Keeping your windows closed

  • Keeping your air conditioning running during high pollen periods, which can help filter the air

  • Using a nasal steroid for a few weeks before allergy season starts and routinely thereafter

  • Using a saline nasal rinse

  • Using a nasal antihistamine

  • Using eye drops for itchy, red, or watery eyes

  • Trying over-the-counter oral antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec over Benadryl, the latter of which can make you way too drowsy

  • Trying over-the-counter decongestants like Allegra-D, Claritin-D, or Zyrtec-D

Dr. Smith also advises that if you get allergies during the summer and not just spring, you may have a grass pollen allergy, in which case you may want to have someone else mow your lawn for you (and keep your windows closed when they do). For grass pollen allergies, he also recommends staying inside in the mornings or when it's windy, as that's when grass pollen is most likely to affect you.

Related: How to Get Allergens Out of Your Home for Good

If nothing helps, don't suffer alone—talk to a doctor, especially if you have asthma, which seasonal allergies can exacerbate and trigger.

"Usually people who end up in my office have tried all the over-the-counter options, and are still miserable. We then start discussing allergy shots," Dr. Smith notes. "Allergy shots are when we inject a minute dose of your allergens just under the skin, which then gradually desensitizes you to your allergens. It is very effective, though for best results, we recommend people complete a five-year course."

If that sounds daunting (or if you're a big baby like me and hate needles as much as or more than blowing your nose whenever anything flowers), there are other options, though you may have to pay for them out of pocket.

"There is a newer and faster type of allergy shots called intralymphatic immunotherapy, that some allergists offer, though it is not covered by insurance yet," Dr. Smith says. "It requires only three allergen injections, spaced over three months. These are injected into a lymph node in your groin, and after the three shots most people are basically cured from their allergies."

Next, How to Prevent Sneezing During Allergy Season