Summer is ending, fall is upon us, and we all know what that means! No, we’re not talking about crisp air and pumpkin spice, we’re referring to fall allergies. You made it through spring, maybe even got a little respite in summer, but weed pollen is in the air and fall allergies are right around the corner. How can you prepare for ragweed season? Here are some suggestions and facts you need to know.
- Fall allergies behave a lot like spring allergies. If you’re sensitive to autumn’s allergens, you may experience the old familiar symptoms of sinus congestion, post-nasal drip, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchy or watery eyes. In fact, you may be so miserable that you’ll mistakenly think you have a cold. Pay attention to the patterns of your symptoms, because if they return every year around the same time, it’s likely that you’re experiencing allergies. See an allergist for a diagnosis so that you can successfully treat your allergies.
- Back to school can mean back to allergies. When kids head back into the classroom, they face a host of allergens, germs and viruses. Sometimes the one-two punch of pollen and germs can be overwhelming, especially since the cold virus can trigger asthma. Ragweed allergy accounts for millions of missed school and work days. Studies show that students with untreated allergies have significantly lower learning scores than their classmates without allergies. Work with your child’s school to create a plan to manage allergies, and see an allergist for help so that fall allergies don’t get in the way of learning.
- Ragweed is the top offender when it comes to fall allergens. That’s largely because it produces very fine pollen and keeps producing it from August until November. About 30 percent of the population is sensitive to ragweed, which causes hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. Ragweed pollen counts peak in September and October, so check pollen counts when you’re planning your day in order to steer clear of outdoor activities when pollen counts are at their highest. You may think you’re safe if you live in an urban area or somewhere that ragweed does not grow. However, a single ragweed plant produces an enormous amount of pollen- up to one million granules per day. These tiny granules travel on the wind, and urban areas can be hit hard by pollen in the afternoons. How far can ragweed pollen travel? It has been found 10 miles out to sea, so there’s no question that it can make it to your home.
- Other allergens come into play in fall, too. This is also the time of year when mold spores reach their highest levels. Why? As falling leaves begin to decompose, they invite mold growth that continues into October. Combine that with the fact that fall weeds keep producing pollen until the first frost hits, and it’s easy to see why this is a miserable time of year for those with allergies. To determine what’s causing your allergic reactions, you can see an allergist for a skin test, and once you have a diagnosis, you’ll know what you need to avoid. When you can’t avoid allergens, there are medications that can manage your symptoms and allergy immunotherapy to treat the underlying causes.
- Pre-treatment can be helpful. You’ll want to prepare by stocking up on allergy medication, but it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and start taking them, too. When you pre-treat with antihistamines and nasal sprays, you can keep inflammation at bay and reduce the severity of your allergy symptoms.
- Know how to limit your exposure. Because it’s so fine, ragweed can be difficult to avoid. Changing your clothes often and bathing frequently can help remove pollen you’re carrying around with you. Limit how much pollen enters your home by keeping the windows closed, changing air filters frequently, and using a dehumidifier to keep mold growth at bay. Outdoors, wear an N95 mask when doing yard work or home maintenance. Don’t wear shoes inside your house, as this can bring pollen in from outdoors.
When you need help identifying and treating seasonal allergies, look to a board-certified allergist to determine your allergens and create a treatment plan. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology. They can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.