After the scorching temperatures of summer, many people look forward to cooler fall weather. However, if you suffer from fall allergies, this time of year can make you feel miserable. Even though the flowers of summer have faded, the cooler temperatures and shorter days cause other plants to pollinate. Fall allergy triggers are different than those that wreak havoc on allergy sufferers in the spring and summer, but they can cause just as many symptoms.
Causes of Fall Allergies
- Ragweed is one of the primary causes of fall allergy symptoms in the United States. Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies in the spring and summer also experience reactions to ragweed pollen. Ragweed begins to pollinate in August but continues into early autumn.
- Even if there is no ragweed present in your immediate area, pollen can float hundreds of miles on the wind.
- Some people whose allergies are triggered by ragweed may also experience allergy symptoms upon exposure to certain fruits and vegetables including bananas, melons, and zucchini.
- Fall can be especially difficult for people with mold sensitivities. Mold loves damp places. While you may think of mold spores growing in your bathroom or basement, piles of damp fallen leaves also make the perfect outdoor breeding ground.
- Dust mites are also a common trigger for fall allergies. When you turn on the heat during the first autumn cold snap, your HVAC system can stir up dust that has settled into your ductwork. This can trigger a flare-up of allergy symptoms.
Common Fall Allergy Symptoms
The most common symptoms of fall allergies include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
Diagnosing Fall Allergies
A doctor can diagnose exactly what is triggering your fall allergy symptoms. First, he or she will ask you questions about your medical history. If your symptoms are severe, a skin test may be administered.
A skin test is usually performed on your back or forearm. During a skin test, a tiny amount of specific allergens are placed on the skin. Then, the skin underneath the area is pricked or scratched. If you are allergic to the allergens being tested, you will develop a small raised bump. It may be itchy like a mosquito bite.
In some cases, a blood test may be used to diagnose some severe allergies.
How to Manage Your Fall Allergies
Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, there are several medications that help make them more bearable.
- Your doctor may prescribe a steroidal nasal spray to reduce nasal swelling.
- Antihistamines can be used to prevent or relieve allergy symptoms, especially sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, and sniffling.
- A decongestant works to reduce mucus production, relieving a runny nose.
- Prescription immunotherapy such as tablets, drops, or allergy shots are a fast and effective way to experience relief from seasonal allergy symptoms.
Many allergy medications can be purchased over the counter at your local drug store. However, be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you choose a medication that will work for you. He or she can also inform you about proper dosage, contraindications, and potential side effects.
Other Ways to Manage Your Symptoms
Here are some practical ways to prevent or limit your exposure to common fall allergy triggers.
- When pollen is at its peak, limit time spent outdoors. You can monitor pollen counts by checking your local weather report.
- Be sure to clean your vents and change your HVAC filter before turning on your heat. Mold spores and dust mites often accumulate in vents went not in use. Those allergens will be blown into your home the first time you turn on your furnace.
- Consider using a dehumidifier. Mold thrives in damp conditions. A dehumidifier will keep the humidity in your home between 35 percent and 50 percent preventing mold from spreading.
- Be sure to wear a mask when raking fall leaves. This will prevent you from breathing in any mold spores that may be hiding in piles of dead and decaying foliage.
- Use an air purifier with a true HEPA filter. This will remove mold spores, pollen, and other particles from your indoor air. The Austin Air HealthMate HM400 is a popular choice for allergy sufferers.