Spring Fever: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Spring fever is a non-specific condition denominating a collection of mental and sometimes physical changes that accompany the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It is thought to be a reaction to warmer weather and can be explained as an adapting mechanism to temperature changes. The condition can be experienced either as a sudden and significant increase in vitality and energy accompanied by a feeling of restlessness and a wanting to spend time outdoors, or as unexplained fatigue, apathy, joint or muscle pain, sleepiness or bad mood.

What is spring fever? Spring fever is the name given to a specific set of mental and sometimes physical changes that arise as a response to warmer weather. It is not recognized as a medical condition proper, nor it is a disease. The phenomenon debuts in early spring and symptoms may instal during the first warm days. Despite the intensity of the symptoms reported by some, spring fever is not dangerous. It is, in some conceptions, considered a natural and thus normal response to seasonal changes such as warmer temperatures, longer days and, consequently, prolonged sunlight exposure, changes in eating or sleeping habits and so on.

Spring fever

Since I can remember, spring has always been difficult for me. And not because of pollen allergies, hay fever or becase I would somehow love winter. Starting with the first warmer days of spring, I have always felt unusually tired, exhausted even and simply unmotivated, lethargic. But I noticed this was not the case for others who would experience a boost in energy and a visibly improved mood. As I researched the subject I found out that both my unexplained apathy and others’ surprising good mood were symptoms of spring fever.

Because, despite its unambiguous name, there are two types of spring fever, each with its own set of symptoms:
1) Spring fever characterized by unusual vitality and energy, complimented by a matching good disposition.
2) Spring fever, springtime fatigue or spring lethargy, characterized by fatigue, apathy and even sadness.

The symptoms of spring fever include:
1) Restlessness and a wanting to be active.
2) Increase in energy.
3) Vitality.
4) Improved mood.
5) Positive attitude.
6) Desire to spend more time outside.
7) Happiness.

The symptoms of spring fatigue include:
1) A drop in vitality.
2) Apathy, lethargy.
3) Lack of motivation.
4) Fatigue, exhaustion.
5) Bad mood.
6) Irritability, brain fog.
7) Feeling sleepier.
8) Sadness, anxiety feelings or depression.
9) Headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness.
10) Muscle and joint aches.
11) Possibly runny nose or other cold-like symptoms.

Spring fever symptoms are temporary. For most people, symptoms debut in April or May and may last up to June. As to what causes the condition, little is known with certainty. Out of all the factors that could possibly contribute to the onset of such a set of symptoms, the following theories are advanced:

Spring fever solutions

1) Allergies. Pollen allergies are very similar to springtime fever and share symptoms such as headaches, lightheadedness, low energy levels, tiredness or feeling sleepier than you normally are. Considering the ambiguity of the condition, it is possible that pollen allergies are a cause of spring fever just as it is possible for pollen allergies and spring fever to just share symptoms.

2) Changes in melatonin production. Spring means longer days and more daylight. This automatically engenders changes in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, causing us to sleep less since nights are getting shorter. It is this change that can put stress on our body and possibly cause spring fever-symptoms as our body balances its production of melatonin to suit shorther nights. As we adjust to longer days and more daylight, we should normally start feeling better, more energized and positive. In some people, these other symptoms of spring fever occur instantly as a result of the seasonal changes, whereas in others they take time and effort.

3) Other hormonal changes. Our endocrine system is influenced by numerous factors, from season and temperatures to dietary habits, sleeping patterns, medication or nutritional deficiencies. Since springtime comes with so many changes not only warmer temperatures and longer days, but also changes in eating and sleeping habits, activity levels and so on, it has been suggested that our endocrine system adjusting to these changes may result in any of the various symptoms of spring fever.

4) Changes in blood pressure parameters. In some years, spring debuts with suprisingly warm days. When temperatures are higher, blood vessels dilate which lead to lower than normal blood pressure levels. If our blood pressure is lower than usual, we may experience symptoms like a drop in vitality, lethargy, lightheadedness, sleepiness etc. (read more about low blood pressure). It may take some people a few days or a few weeks to adjust to warmer temperatures, while other welcome the warmer weather happily.

5) Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It is a known fact that many people come out of winter with rather pronounced vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Because of the cold, in winter we tend to eat heavier foods, especially more meat, to get more calories. Moreover, we might not have access to fresh fruit or a wide variety of vegetables like in other seasons, so we eat less of them and thus get less of certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C or A. When spring sets in with its warmer and happier days, wanting to go outside or exposure to flu viruses, our body might feel the stress of adjustment a little too much because it requires more nutrients to function optimally, hence the spring fever or spring fatigue symptoms.

6) Seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder is a form of seasonal depression that occurs mostly in winter, but has been found to occur in spring or summer as well. The condition is thought to be a result of poor exposure to sunlight due to shorther days and believed to negatively impact the endocrine system, causing changes in the production of serotonin, melatonin and other hormones, changes that negatively impact mood and energy levels. Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by lethargy, sleepiness, feeling tired or fatigued, having overall low energy levels, lack of motivation, bad mood, sadness, negative thoughts or anxiety, many of which are also experienced by those with spring fever.

How to remedy spring fever? If you’re experiencing an increase in energy levels and improved mood, then there is little to remedy and you probably don’t even want to change anything. But if what you are experiencing is springtime fatigue, then the following solutions can help improve symptoms and get you through spring:

1) Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and help expel irritant pollen particles. Since allergies may be a reason why we are feeling particularly tired, sleepy and lethargic in spring and dehydration may contribute to worsening the symptoms we may be experiencing, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking sufficient water.

2) Avoid allergens. If you know you are allergic to pollen, it is important to wash your hair after being out, especially on particularly windy days, shower and change your clothes and avoid bringing shoes inside in case they might have gathered allergens while you were out. Change sheets at least once a week and remember that pets can also bring plenty of pollen and other allergens inside.

3) Stick to a sleeping schedule. Although spring fever might come with insomnia or excessive sleepiness, it is important to find a balance by resting sufficiently and keeping to a schedule by sleeping and waking up at the same hours every day (say going to bed at 10 in the evening and waking up at 7 in the morning). Having a sleeping schedule is what helps me feel more rested and reduces my fatigue significantly when I deal with spring fever.

4) Enjoy sunlight exposure to replenish vitamin D reserves. Since we do get more sunglight in spring, it’s good for us to get some vitamin D to increase our immunity and strenghten our health. Also, exposure to natural light is, in itself, a great therapy for mood problems.

5) Take a multivitamin to make sure you start spring right. Although I take vitamins all year round, I find that starting on a good multivitamin a couple of weeks before spring sets helps reduce the severity of my spring fever symptoms and improves my mood, energy levels and productivity significantly. I also include more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet.

6) Be active. Doing outdoor activities especially can help reduce stress, stimulate appetite, improve mood in general and encourage better physical and mental health. In my experience, the most difficult part is getting out of the house. After this, it gets easier.

Conclusion. I have suffered from spring fever for many years and struggled greatly with the mental changes it brings as well as the physical ones like lethargy, lack of motivation, excessive sleepiness, feeling tired, exhausted even all the time and always low on energy and sad. Not knowing what these symptoms meant was the most difficult for me because I didn’t know where to start making things better. Fortunately, even though my spring fever is not the happy type that comes with a boost in energy and a love for life greater than me, I can now manage my symptoms easily with simple solutions and remedies.

8 Replies to “Spring Fever: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment”

  1. It seems that every March I get moody and easily irritated. I am retired and cannot motivate myself into doing anything. If I ever divorce my husband, it will be in March. My dogs are driving me nuts. Also, I would like to get a 5 star motel room for five days and sip gin and tonic. LOL

    • I think a lot of us relate to what you’re saying, Anna! This time of the year does seem to sometimes get the best of us, emotionally speaking. Spring is not only for allergies, it can also bring you down or make you feel like you’re no longer your normal self. Some say it’s seasonal allergies that cause these feelings of restlessness, moodiness, impatience, irritability, snappiness and even sadness, lethargy or downright depression. It can be. Others believe it’s SAD (seasonal affective disorder) that escalates during this time of the year and the lack of sunshine and vitamin D that further impact our mood. Whatever the cause, truth is there is a real emotional reset going on in spring. And it takes a strong will and lots of patience to get through the ups and downs.
      What I find helps me is to be with family and friends and spend time outdoors as much as I can, especially in sunny days (just be careful with the plant pollen). These two things really help raise my spirits and get me feeling better. And slowly everything just seems to fall into place. Wishing you lots of health, Anna!

    • Some doctors do consider spring fever as a freestanding condition, Sajmon. However, others feel spring fever signs are actually an extension of spring allergies since symptoms overlap or even symptoms of seasonal affective disorder which manifests during spring or even summer instead of winter. If spring fever is a regular occurrence and quite severe in its manifestation, it is also seen as a seasonal depression pattern caused by major depressive disorder. For some people, it occurs in association with bipolar disorder.

      The difficulty in determining whether or not spring fever is a freestanding mental disorder, independent of other mental disorders, but which can nonetheless occur in association with others, stems from the fact that there is still too little information on it to formulate a solid diagnosis and there aren’t really objective tests set in place to evaluate symptoms. It’s good when people become aware when they are showing signs of spring sickness and report those symptoms to their doctors. The more is known about the condition, the better the chances it can be evaluated objectively in the future.
      Believe it or not, there is still great difficulty in assessing more obvious conditions that seem to affect a greater deal of people like irritable bowel syndrome, belching disorders or other functional gastrointestinal disorders. So it may just be a matter of time and finding out more. Wishing you lots of health, Sajmon!

  2. As much as I dislike the long winter, it seems that I become conditioned to it and as soon as the first few warm days occur I feel awful. Such is the case this year also. Yesterday was our first day above 70°. I went out intent on starting a little yard work, but lasted only about 45min before coming in with a headache. It was difficult to stay awake past dinner time. Today, just sleep walking and trying to fit in a nap. It’s another warm day and I feel like the life has been drained from me. If this wasn’t an every year occurrence, I’d be alarmed. Wish that spring brought for me the more manic symptoms, but have been this way since childhood.

    • So awful, Claire! Have you considered spring allergies? Seasonal pollen allergies are a big cause of spring fever and can bring about symptoms of the likes you’ve experienced. I also experience strong sleepiness and lethargy as soon as the first warm and sunny day of spring arrives. It could help to see your doctor and have some tests done, like skin prick testing to check for some common allergens where you live. If the allergies are confirmed, the doctor might recommend an antihistamine for you to help you get through this time of the year. You might only be allergic to one or a few plants which may have a limited flowering season in spring. Wishing you lots of health, Claire!

  3. I am 48 male living in Cincinnati. I am very athlete, as I ride my bicycle 300 miles a week and run at least a half marathon once a week. I have had seasonal allergies since childhood. It is expected that I get hit hard every spring, usually with a severe sinus infection. This year is no exception but this year I seem to get extra tired in the last two weeks. I rode my bicycle 50 miles last night and could barely finish it, which would be a piece of cake for me normally. We had a rather long winter this year, and we just had our first 70 degree week last week. It has been very windy, which I think brought in a lot of airborne particles from the south. I started taking some over the counter allergy and sinus relief pills, which seem to be working, as my nose stop running like a river two days ago. Nonetheless, I think spring fever/sickness is definitely for real for some of us.

    • Spring fever is real! And some years it’s worse than others. Especially if the winter was long and higher temperatures and warm days come more abruptly. Where I’m from, temperatures have been a lot higher than they would normally be for the last month and a half and this has caused more allergenic plants to flower all within the same month, instead of gradually, over the course of March-June like they would have normally done. Where I live, we’ve had willows, lilac, false acacia (black locust) and linden (basswood) along with all sorts of field crops like grasses all flower together and the struggle has been real. Insomnia at night and sleepiness during the day, fatigue, sinus pressure, runny nose and postnasal drip have drained the life out of me. It’s hard to do anything these days, even find motivation to get up. And like you said, symptoms get worse if you go out on a windy day, especially early in the morning, when it gets dark or after it’s just rained. If pollen count is high, even going in a room you’ve aired for 5 minutes causes me to fill up on mucus. Antihistamines work for me too and really temper symptoms, although they don’t really do anything about fluctuating mood this time of year. I just make sure that when I stop taking antihistamines, I’ll do it gradually to prevent rebound symptoms. Thank you for telling us about your experience with spring fever and wishing you lots of health!

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