When you think of seasonal allergies, you may think spring. But for some people living with allergies, symptoms like a runny nose or itchy, watery eyes can be just as troublesome in the fall. Along with cooler weather and changing foliage, weeds and other plants release pollen into the air and outdoor molds grow under fallen leaves, both of which can trigger fall allergies. Ragweed, which produces pollen from August to November, triggers allergies in as many as 23 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
“Across the United States, the number one fall allergy trigger is ragweed, mainly because the plant dominates the southeast part of the country,” says Inderpal Randhawa, MD, a board-certified lung, immunology, an allergy specialist with the Lung & Allergy Institute of Los Angeles. “Weeds and outdoor molds become airborne and can wreak havoc with allergies.”
Fall Allergy Symptoms
“Allergy symptoms can vary, depending on which part of the body is exposed,” says Dr. Randhawa.
Eyes and nose: Watery, itchy eyes; clear, runny mucous; and lots of sneezing.
Lungs: Wheezing and asthma.
Mouth: Itching in the back of the throat, upset stomach, diarrhea and, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction).
Skin: Hives; dry, itchy skin; and eczema.
Tips for Managing Fall Allergies
As days grow shorter and temperatures drop, we also spend more time indoors with the windows closed, exposing ourselves to indoor allergens, such as dust mites and indoor mold. However, even if you have severe fall allergies, you can usually manage your symptoms and get back to enjoying your life — both inside and outside. These seasonal allergy management tips can help:
Check pollen levels. If pollen levels are high in your area, it’s best to limit your outdoor activity, especially during the morning, when pollen counts are highest. Keep your activities inside for a few days instead, if possible, to minimize your exposure to allergens during those days. You can check pollen counts at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s National Allergy Bureau.
Wear protective clothing. If you do have to go outside, wear long sleeves, pants, a hat, and sunglasses to keep pollen off your skin and out of your hair and eyes. If you’re doing fall yard work like raking or mowing — which can stir up pollen and mold — wear a protective face mask.
Remove pollen. One of the best ways to minimize your allergen exposure is to wash pollens off your skin and your hair as soon as possible after spending time outside, says Frederick M. Schaffer, MD, chief medical officer at United Allergy Services in San Antonio, Texas. You should also change shoes before entering the house and change clothes inside the front doorway to reduce the amount of pollen and other allergens you may be bringing into the house.
Avoid hanging clothes outdoors to dry. Laundry is a magnet for pollen that will eventually end up indoors and on you, via clothing and bedding, says Dr. Schaffer.
Buy a dehumidifier. You may have heard that humidifiers can help with breathing, but dehumidifiers may actually be better if you are sensitive to dust or mold. “Dust mites and molds flourish in a humid environment,” says Schaffer. Using a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels in your home low can help fight mold growth. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American recommends keeping humidity levels below 45 percent — 35 percent is even better.
Use an air conditioner. This is another way to help remove moisture from the air. It’s especially important to use an air conditioner in your bedroom. It’s where you spend eight or more hours each night, so it’s critical to keep it clean and pollen-free to avoid allergies. Close the windows and keep the air conditioning on, Randhawa says. “Consider installing a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter system, especially during high season, so that you’re breathing in better purified air while you sleep.” Just remember to change air conditioner filters regularly. “Place the used filter in a plastic garbage bag, then dispose of the filter [within the plastic bag] outdoors,” says Schaffer. “This will limit accidental ‘pollen spills’ indoors.”
Take your medication as prescribed. This is one of the easiest and most effective steps you can take, according to Randhawa. Many over-the-counter allergy drugs are now non-drowsy, long-lasting, and effective.
See a doctor if needed. “A proper allergy test will help identify the cause of your suffering and determine the right treatment to stop it,” explains J. Allen Meadows, MD, a board-certified allergist with the Alabama Allergy and Asthma Clinic. “Anyone with allergies and asthma should be able to feel good, be active all day, and sleep well at night.”
Article from everydayhealth.com