Could It Be Allergies?

Dr. Joanne Clinch, Clinical Director of the Student Health Service, provided the following information to be shared with parents and families.


Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, sinus pressure… “It can’t be allergies- I have never had allergies before!” Many students new to North Carolina will experience allergy symptoms, even without a prior history of this condition. Symptoms typically will arise during the first or second year at Wake Forest.

Common symptoms include itchy eyes, sneezing, pink eye, nasal congestion, sinus pressure or ongoing cough. Students with pre-existing asthma can experience a worsening of their asthma symptoms.

Having never experienced problems with seasonal allergies, many students will attribute these symptoms to a sinus infection or become concerned that there is mold in their residence hall.

Why would allergies “suddenly develop” during college? Wake Forest students come to North Carolina from all over the world. The allergens (pollens, weeds etc.) differ from region to region, both in types and amounts. For many new to the area, this may be the first exposure to this type of allergen and the first time their body has created an allergy response.

Our typical peak seasons are fall and spring. North Carolina, and our campus, are known for their beautiful trees, flowers and expansive green lawns. This grandeur comes at a cost to allergy suffers who struggle with symptoms during this time. I myself am a transplanted Yankee and was amazed my first year in North Carolina by the coating of green pollen that covered my car, my screened in porch and every outdoor surface!

What can my son or daughter do if they are experiencing these symptoms? If your student is unsure what is causing their ongoing symptoms, the staff at Student Health Service would be happy to help patients determine if their symptoms are caused by a viral infection, indoor or outdoor allergies, or sinusitis.

For students concerned that their symptoms are a result of an indoor allergen like mold, our office will work with Residence Life to have the room inspected. While many students suspect mold to be the culprit of their symptoms when it is actually seasonal allergies, it is possible for this to be the case. In the event that mold is detected in university housing, the Residence Life staff respond quickly and in coordination with Environmental Health and Safety as well as Facilities staff who have the experience and expertise to treat the problem and address potential causes.

If a diagnosis of allergies is confirmed, medications to help treat the symptoms of season allergies are available through our onsite pharmacy. Some students choose to see allergists to begin allergy testing and shots to help reduce their “sensitivity” to common allergens. The Allergy Clinic at Student Health Service can provide allergy shots prescribed by the student’s allergist.

For more information about the services at Student Health, please visit our homepage

More information about allergies can be found online here



Originally published October 2013; reviewed August 2019


To contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.

If Your Student Has a Problem

One of the best ways parents/families can help their students is to let them solve their own problems. Use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method when your student contacts you with a problem.  The flyer also lists contact information for serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.

Orientation 2019 slide shows

Select slide shows and handouts from Orientation sessions are available online.