Don’t Let Seasonal Allergies Catch You Off Guard
Millions of people suffer from allergies during the fall when ragweed is rampant and in the spring when pollen counts soar. Here’s what to look for in both seasons and how to find relief from allergies.
Fall allergies can have a serious impact on those who are susceptible. In fact, ragweed pollen, a major culprit of fall allergies, impacts about 75% of people who are allergic to spring plants, according to Zyrtec. Ragweed, which blooms between August and November, grows nationwide, but it’s most prevalent in the Midwest and along the East Coast. In addition to ragweed pollen, fall allergies can be triggered by dust mites, mold, and leaves. Unseasonably warm weather is also a factor, depending on where you live. Longer, lingering summer weather can lead to rampant weed growth and pollen, a main cause of allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever.
Be aware that spring rain showers will produce flowers that can aggravate allergy symptoms. Storm winds can help stir up and spread allergens like pollen and mold. Allergists advise sufferers to stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, which is often midday and afternoon hours. In recent years, doctors have heard many patients complain that their spring allergies are worse than ever. Warmer temperatures across the country in recent years have triggered high pollen counts and more sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and watery eyes. Pollen counts climb each year, and researchers predict they will double by 2040, according to a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. After a mild winter, pollen may be released from trees earlier in the spring, and allergy seasons can be longer. Once this early pollen arrives on the scene, an allergy sufferer’s immune system is off and running in response. That means, regardless of the weather for the rest of the season, the allergic reaction will continue.
How to Cope With Allergies
There is no cure for seasonal allergies, but allergy shots (immunotherapy) can help relieve symptoms and prevent progression. Immunotherapy can also be tailored to an individual’s needs. By starting with a small dose of allergens and working up to larger amounts, your body naturally builds resistance as your immune system becomes desensitized. If you are allergic to pollen, dust, and pet dander, allergy shots can provide you with relief from these allergens.
If you regularly suffer from allergies in the fall and/or spring, consider making an appointment with your doctor to avoid problems before they start. Here are additional tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
- See an allergist. Researchers found that most people with seasonal allergies prefer prescription medication. However, most allergy sufferers rely on over-the-counter medicines to keep their symptoms in check. An allergist can prescribe the medication that will work best for you.
- Be proactive. If you start taking allergy medication before you experience symptoms, a lot of suffering can be avoided. Don’t wait to start your medicine regimen. For maximum effect, begin taking your medication two to three weeks before you normally start feeling the symptoms of allergies.
- Consider your environment. Keep an eye on the weather report for days when pollens and molds are high. Take your medication when counts are high—don’t wait for symptoms to start. Avoid going outside during the day when pollen counts are at their highest. Close windows and doors, and use the air conditioning in your home and car. If you need to work outdoors, try to schedule it after a good rain, and wear a NIOSH-rated n95 filter mask. When you’re done, take a shower, wash your hair, and put on fresh clothes to reduce exposure. Don’t hang clothes out to dry during allergy season.
- Track your symptoms. Write down your symptoms to learn which factors seem to trigger your allergies. This is also useful information to share with your doctor.