For many of us, spring isn’t the only season for suffering with an itchy throat, red and watery eyes, a stuffy nose, sneezing and other distressing symptoms of allergies. The end of summer brings with it a whole new crop of allergens from sources such as ragweed and the mold in autumn’s decaying leaves and grasses.
Depending on how old you are, you might have heard a late-summer/early autumn allergy referred to as “hay fever.” Ragweed, not hay, is the biggest culprit in causing hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. Ragweed is known to release pollen from mid-August to about November or, if you live in a colder climate, until there’s a good freeze.
The ragweed plant can grow just about anywhere in the US, but it’s most common in rural areas of the East and Midwest. Don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t live in these areas. A single ragweed plant can produce up to one billion grains of pollen1, and they’ve been known to travel up to 400 miles!
Mold and mildew, which thrive in the damp environments so common in the fall months, can also trigger autumn allergies. Mold and mildew produce spores that travel through the wind or circulated air in your house. A simple job like raking leaves can send mounds of mold spores into the air – and into your respiratory system!
And don’t forget the everyday allergens like dust and pet dander.1 They can add to your misery when you have an autumn allergy. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) mentions a few other problem areas for fall allergy sufferers in their article found here.
For people with seasonal allergies that hit at this time of the year, your best bet is to be prepared. There are ways you can get yourself and your environment ready for the autumn allergen onslaught and ways you can manage your allergies once they get here.
First, the ACAAI recommends that you learn what it is that triggers your symptoms. You might think it’s ragweed, but it might be something totally different. An allergist can help you get to the truth of the matter and then find ways to avoid those triggers and reduce – or even eliminate – your symptoms.
An allergist can also recommend appropriate treatments to begin before the season starts to get you ready to handle the allergen attack. Treatment might include over-the-counter or prescription medication or immunotherapy in the form of drops or injections.
Second, create a plan of attack for managing yourself and your environment during this time of year. Here are some suggestions from the ACAAI3, Healthline1 and WebMD4:
- Monitor pollen and mold counts. When they’re high outdoors, stay inside.
- Keep your windows and doors closed in your home and car during the height of allergy season.
- After you’ve been working in the yard or doing an outdoor activity, take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes to remove any pollen.
- Before you turn on your heater for the first time, clean out the air vents and put in a new filter.
- If you have pets, especially cats, try using an air filter to keep the air free of pet dander.
- Wear a mask when you rake leaves or work around the damp areas in your home or yard.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your house at about 35 percent to 50 percent humidity.
Listen to the advice of your doctor and follow your allergy action plan, and you can live through autumn allergy season without a sneezy, sniffly struggle!