Fall Allergies and How to Cope With Them
September 30, 2017
Allergies are largely associated with the spring and summer time, as pollen fills the air. However, as some of us unfortunately know, allergens of different types can thrive in all temperatures and environments. In this article, we’ll go over some of the allergens that are particularly prominent in the fall, and how these allergies can be treated.
In actuality, the summer allergens are often easier to pinpoint than their autumnal counterparts. Pollen and other allergens are often easily visible, or can cause extreme reactions, such as with poison ivy. On the other hand, fall allergies are a bit more subtle, especially as they hit at the same time as cold and flu season. If you can’t easily determine what is causing your allergies, you should consult a doctor. A doctor will be able to perform a skin test to pinpoint the exact cause. Additionally, if you notice an extreme allergic reaction, you’ll want to find your way to the nearest urgent care facility. Unless you are equipped with epinephrine, this reaction can be fatal, and you’ll need to know exactly what caused it to avoid such a reaction in the future.
Allergies or Cold?
Perhaps the biggest issues with autumnal allergies is their coincidence with cold and flu season. Many seasonal allergies don’t cause extreme reactions, instead manifesting with similar symptoms to a cold. Because of this, it can be difficult to figure out whether our runny nose is the result of something in the air or someone who didn’t wash their hands.
Sneezing, coughing and a runny nose are all very common symptoms of both seasonal allergies and a cold. If these are the only three symptoms you are seeing, than you likely have a cold and not allergies.
The biggest differentiating factor between allergies and a cold are itchiness and watery eyes. One of the most frustrating parts of allergies is the insufferable itching it causes around your eyes and nose, often creating the feeling that we need to sneeze for long periods before it actually happens. Compounding this is the effect allergies can have on our eyes. The itchiness and constant irritation can cause a steady stream of water to fall down our face, and create large bags under the eyes. If you see any of these symptoms, you are likely suffering from allergies and not a cold.
Fall Allergy Causes
There are three main causes of allergies in the fall: ragweed, mold and dust mites.
Ragweed is the nastiest of all, especially in warmer areas. Blooming in late August, a single ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grams of pollen in a season. Additionally, this hearty plant will survive until the first frost of the season, which can be incredibly late in the season in some areas. The easiest way to determine your risk for ragweed allergy is to Google it, as they have recently implemented a tool to track the pollen count in your area. To further combat your pollen allergy, keep your windows closed and take off your shoes when you walk in the door to avoid tracking pollen inside.
Mold is most commonly thought of in the home, but it’s happy to grow in any wetspot. This can cause a lot of mold outdoors during rainy falls. To combat a mold allergy, make sure you rake often and use a dehumidifier in the home, as this will hinder the growth of mold and mildew.
Dust mites are very similar to mold. Although they are a year round issue, they become much more prominent when the temperature drops. To prevent them from being an issue, keeping the humidity low in the home should kill them off.
Fall Allergy Treatments
Allergens in the fall may be seasonal, but the same treatments work year round. It’s difficult to combat all of the symptoms at once, but we can treat many of them easily. Prevention is often just as important as treatment however, so proofing your house can go a very long way.
Steroid nasal sprays can reduce inflammation in the nose and eyes. This will prevent the aforementioned itchiness, and open up your airways to make breathing easier.
Antihistamines, such as Clarinex and Claritin, can prevent the more cold like symptoms of allergies. These will relieve the sneezing and coughing fits, and will also relieve the itchiness.
Decongestants, such as Sudafed, will help dry up the mucus in your nose, which should clear most of it and help to prevent a runny nose.
Finally, immunotherapy (allergy shots or oral tablets) and epinephrine can be used to help in extreme situations. While these are highly effective, neither should be administered without consulting a doctor.