Days are getting shorter, leaves are turning and there’s a chill in the air, but this doesn’t guarantee that your seasonal allergies will subside.
Unfortunately for those who suffer from allergies, allergens can pop up in abundance at any time of year, not just in the spring.
Here are 6 ways to prevent fall allergies:
- Remove allergens from your home
- Avoid mold whenever possible
- Make sure your clothes are allergen-free
- Wear an N95 mask for outdoor chores
- Relieve symptoms with a saline nasal spray
- Give your sinuses a deep cleaning with a nasal rinse
We’ll explore each of those methods—but first, let’s look at why the fall allergy season happens and what allergens are most common.
Why Do Pollen Allergies Exist?
People can develop allergies to a wide variety of things, from cow’s milk to pet dander to, of course, pollen. But why do we get allergies in the first place?
All types of allergies are the result of your body’s immune system and how it reacts to various substances. Your immune system responds the way it does because of genetics, environmental factors or a combination of both.
If you move to a new city or state and find that your allergies flare up again after a few years of initial relief, that’s an environmental factor at work. When we’re in a new place, it can take our immune systems up to three to five years to start treating local allergens as foreign invaders, according to allergist William Reisacher, M.D.
What Allergens Are Common in the Fall?
While pollen from trees like oaks, maples, and elms are usually the culprit of springtime allergies, ragweed pollen runs rampant during the fall.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 10 to 20 percent of Americans have ragweed allergies, which translates to somewhere between about 32.5 million people and 65 million people.
Plus, some places simply have higher allergen levels than others. The AAFA listed these as the 10 most challenging cities to live in for fall allergies in 2018 :
- McAllen, Texas
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Jackson, Mississippi
- San Antonio, Texas
- Dayton, Ohio
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Syracuse, New York
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Toledo, Ohio
To make matters worse, rising average temperatures are making ragweed season last even longer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In some areas, it’s been extended by nearly a month:
Mold is another potential offender: According to ear, nose and throat expert Michael Beninger, M.D., piles of damp fall leaves can result in a proliferation of mold — even rotting Halloween pumpkins can be a trigger.
Six Ways to Fight Fall Allergies Naturally
There are several ways you can effectively prepare for and treat fall allergies without using over-the-counter or prescription medications. Here are six of the best:
- Keep your air as clean as possible by using portable air purifiers and turning on your HVAC system if you have one. Just make sure that your filters and ducts are properly installed and maintained.
- Avoid mold whenever you can. Have someone else rake your leaves if possible, and make sure to throw away jack-o-lanterns before they start to rot.
- Remove allergens from your clothes and bedding by washing it regularly, especially after spending time outside (hot water works best).
- Wear an N95 respirator or mask, which will filter out airborne particles, if you have to mow the lawn, rake leaves, or do other outdoor chores. You can buy N95 respirators in most home improvement, hardware stores, or local discount stores. Look for the term “N95” printed on the packaging.
- Use a saline spray, which can relieve some of your allergy symptoms by helping to clean out mucus from the nasal passages.
- Use a nasal rinse, which can provide a deeper clean by washing away allergens and mucus (just be careful to use them properly).
Seniors and Children: Take Special Care with Allergies
Seniors should be especially vigilant about treating allergies and should see a doctor right away if they begin experiencing symptoms. According to the AAFA, allergies cause at least 30 percent of adult asthma cases, which can pose a great risk to seniors – older adults are more likely than younger people to develop respiratory failure as a result of asthma. If you’re caring for a senior or are one yourself, be sure to avoid unnecessary exposure to allergens and see a doctor as soon as any signs of seasonal allergies appear.
If you’re caring for a young child, also keep in mind that it can be difficult to notice symptoms of seasonal allergies in children. If you see your child exhibiting symptoms like an unusually runny nose, excessive sneezing, persistent nasal congestion or watery eyes, begin treating them at home right away, and take them to a doctor if their symptoms worsen or begin to have a significant impact on their daily life.
Although fall may not offer much relief from the allergy symptoms you’ve been experiencing since spring, if you’re armed with the right tools, you can keep your symptoms under control all autumn long. Don't forget about food allergies in Halloween candy. These 5 safety rules for Halloween are some nice reminders in addition to allergies to be mindful of.
When to Seek Urgent Care for Allergies
Many people wonder when they should seek urgent care for allergies. An urgent care center can help identify the cause and deal with the symptoms of allergies that are non-severe and non-life-threatening.
If your allergy symptoms worsen or become too much to tolerate, you should consider going to an urgent care center like GoHealth Urgent Care, where a provider can recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication that’s right for you.
You may be asked to get an allergy test to determine which specific allergen is causing you trouble and can offer immunotherapy treatments (allergy shots) if necessary.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant