For many, fall is a favorite season that gives relief from the heat of summer while not quite bringing the cold of winter. It brings with it beautifully colored leaves and a cool crispness in the air. However, for others, it is simply a reminder that fall allergy season is on its way. Here are some fall allergies and triggers that you can prepare for this coming season.
While hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, doesn’t have anything to do with hay or fevers, this condition is well-known to cause traditional allergy symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Itchy, watering eyes
One of the primary triggers for hay fever is the blooming of ragweed. Ragweed is a yellow flowering weed that blooms from August until it dies when the first freeze comes, usually in mid-November to early December. It can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen per season. Other blooming plants that trigger hay fever include sagebrush, Russian thistle, pigweed and mugwort.
To avoid hay fever, there are several steps you can take:
- Monitor pollen count
- Stay indoors with windows and doors closed
- Keep car windows rolled up
- Wear a painter’s mask/N95 mask while working outdoors
- Wash all clothing and linens regularly
- Give pets (especially outdoor ones) regular baths to avoid exposure to dust, dander and shed fur
- Take off shoes and jackets when entering the home to avoid tracking in pollen
- Talk with your provider about an allergy shot, an allergy prescription or over-the-counter allergy medicine
Several other factors can contribute to fall allergies besides blooming plants. It can be tough to avoid some of them, but there are steps you can take to avoid being overwhelmed by allergic symptoms.
Mold spores are a year-round issue, forming any place where moisture has collected. This may be a problem in the fall when the first of the heavy fall rains begin. Mold gathers in moisture-rich places like mulch, compost, autumn leaf piles and gutters. It can also grow in indoor areas such as basements, cellars, crawlspaces, kitchens, bathrooms and other places where moisture easily collects. The best way to keep symptoms of mold allergies at bay is to keep your surrounding environment dry (using a humidifier/dehumidifier when necessary) and wear a mask when in contact with outdoor sources of moisture.
Some ways to keep moisture from collecting in your environment include:
- Raking leaves and burning them or moving them to a compost pile a good distance from your home
- Keeping mulch and other yard waste away from your home
- Keep your home’s atmosphere at 35-50 percent humidity using a humidifier or dehumidifier.
- Set up a home cleaning plan that involves anti-mold and mildew cleaning products
Lingering Warm Weather
Sometimes fall doesn’t completely arrive until October and November. Summertime may stick around long enough to ease into oncoming fall weather, resulting in confusing weather patterns. Unpredictable weather patterns, like quickly interchanging cold and warm days, are often triggers for allergies and common colds.
Some ways to prepare for changing seasonal weather patterns include:
- Taking nutritional supplements, especially ones with iron and Vitamins C and D
- Getting medication from your physician
- Immunotherapy like allergy shots
Dust and dust mites are often triggers for allergies and other respiratory conditions like asthma. Dust mites, which are microscopic arthropods that feed on tiny particles of shed human skin found in dust particles, thrive in 60-70 degree weather. Dust can also easily get kicked up when the drier weather of the fall and winter seasons arrive.
It’s best to get rid of allergy-triggering dust and dust mites by:
- Routinely dusting and cleaning surfaces
- Regularly washing clothing and textile products
- Having air vents/ducts cleaned
- Replacing air filters routinely
- Using dust-proof covers on pillowcases
Many children find that their allergies worsen when they return to school. Triggers can include chalk dust, classroom pets, certain cleaning supplies, foods from other classmates’ lunches and other allergens that classmates unknowingly bring with them. Children who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) may also find that certain physical activities at recess or gym class trigger difficulty breathing. If this is the case, educate your child on best practices for avoiding allergy triggers, make sure they have allergy medication available and notify teachers about their conditions.
Allergies vs. Illness
Sometimes allergy symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other illnesses. If you have seasonal allergies, you may also find that you get sick more easily. So monitor your symptoms closely in case they change, become worse than usual or indicate the presence of a different and more serious medical condition. It can be difficult to determine the difference between allergies and a common cold, but knowing the difference could be vital to your continued well-being. For instance, some signs of an oncoming illness include the development of a fever or body aches. However, because the symptoms of allergies and sickness can be so similar, it’s a good idea—especially during COVID-19—to stay home until a doctor can determine whether your symptoms point to allergies or another illness.
We Can Help!
Changing seasons mean changing conditions for allergies and sickness, so it’s important to be aware and keep track of your and your loved ones’ triggers. We can help you determine what risk factors may be affecting you and put together a plan to avoid or treat them. For fall allergy questions or any other wellness questions you may have, contact us today or walk into our office!