Tree pollen to pet dander: How to identify what allergens are bothering you

February 7, 2024

If you dread the arrival of allergy season or suffer from year-round allergies, you're not alone. Sniffling, sneezing, watery eyes and itchy skin are just some of the annoying symptoms that have allergy sufferers willing to try nearly anything for relief. But to tame seasonal allergies, you first need to identify your triggers.


According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), over 80 million Americans have seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to substances in the air like pollen or mold spores. In some areas, these allergens may be present year-round. This overreaction triggers your immune system to release Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that cause allergy symptoms.


The most common seasonal allergy triggers depend somewhat on where you live. But these five troublemakers top the list for most allergy sufferers:

  1. Tree pollen: Trees release their pollen in early spring, with different trees pollinating at different times. Birch, Oak, maple, elm, pine and other trees can contribute to seasonal discomfort.
  2. Grass pollen: Grasses start spreading pollen in late spring and peak in summer. There are many different types of grass pollen that can trigger allergies, including timothy grass, Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass. Ragweed plants also bloom in summer and release highly allergenic pollen.
  3. Mold spores: Mold spores thrive in damp, humid environments. They peak in hot, wet weather and can be found both indoors and outdoors year-round. Outdoor molds spike during the warmer months.
  4. Ragweed pollen: Ragweed plants release pollen in mid-August through October, depending on where you live. Ragweed pollen is one of the most common fall allergy triggers.
  5. Pet dander: Pet dander refers to microscopic flakes of skin shed by cats, dogs, small mammals like guinea pigs and birds. Saliva and urine also contain proteins that can cause allergic reactions. While pet allergies are year-round, pets spend more time indoors during colder months.


Find out what seasonal allergens are troubling you

If you're wondering whether any of these common triggers may be causing your seasonal allergy symptoms, Labcorp OnDemand’s Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test can help provide insight. This blood test measures your immune system’s IgE antibody response to various indoor and outdoor allergens, including dust mites, mouse urine and pet dander. IgE testing is not considered sufficient to diagnose an allergy on its own. Results from this test should be interpreted in the context of your medical history with a healthcare provider or an allergist.

Understanding exactly what you are allergic to is key to finding the right treatment and relief.