Say Hello to Fall
… and Goodbye to Allergy & Asthma Symptoms
With its cooler temperatures, beautiful colors, and fun activities, fall is a favorite season for many people. But the arrival of harvest season also signals the arrival of fall allergies, causing headaches, stuffy noses, and sneezing that can put a damper on fall fun. If you’re one of more than 50 million Americans with allergies and asthma, the following tips can help you find relief and enjoy fall to the fullest.
Hayrides and Hay Mazes
Contrary to what you might think, the hay used in hayrides and hay mazes doesn’t actually cause hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis). However, these activities do expose you to the real culprits: outdoor allergens, with weeds (especially ragweed) and mold being the most common fall allergy triggers. “Pollen can build up easily on bales of hay, which can then get on clothes,” says allergist Michael Foggs, md, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “If possible, take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothing after an outdoor outing such as a hayride.”
Weeds and mold are common fall allergy triggers.
While it’s impossible to completely escape pollen and molds, you can take some precautions to lessen exposure:
Keep the windows in your home and car closed, and use air-conditioning,
Remember to change your home and auto air filters regularly and replace them with high efficiency filters.
Don’t hang laundry outdoors to dry. Pollen may cling to towels and sheets.
Outdoor air usually is most heavily saturated with pollen between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., so limit early morning outdoor activities. Also be aware that wind gusts and activities like raking leaves can stir up mold spores.
Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or gardening, and take allergy medication beforehand.
Apple Picking and Baking
Fall is a great time for picking apples and baking pies from your bounty. But if your mouth, lips, or throat gets itchy or you sniffle and sneeze after eating a raw apple, you may have oral allergy syndrome. The condition, which affects about one third of seasonal allergy fighters, causes a reaction in people who are already allergic to pollen when their immune system sees a similarity between the proteins of pollen and those of certain foods.
The good news is people affected by oral allergy syndrome can usually eat cooked forms of the same fruits that cause a reaction, because heat changes the proteins. So go ahead and bake the apples into a pie without worry. But before you reach for the cinnamon, one of the key ingredients that makes apple pie so scrumptious, be aware that it can trigger an allergic reaction. Although spice allergy is very rare, it’s believed that many people with the allergy are undiagnosed. In addition to cinnamon, spice allergy triggers include garlic, black pepper, and vanilla.
Taking a Hike
The idea of taking a fall hike and breathing in cool, crisp air is especially appealing after a long, hot summer. You just need to make sure to take the proper precautions before hitting the trail if you have allergies or asthma.
“Asthma triggers are things that don’t bother most people, but can make inflamed lungs worse if you have asthma,” says Dr. Foggs. “Asthma triggers include pollen, mold spores, animal fur, smoke, and dust (which can contain all of the above) – all things you could encounter while taking a hike. In addition, cold, windy weather or sudden weather changes can be triggers, so asthma sufferers need to take precautions to cope with those triggers.”
Don’t wait until the first sign of symptoms to take your medications. You should start taking allergy medications at least two weeks before your symptoms usually begin and continue taking them for two weeks after the first frost, as your symptoms can linger after pollen is no longer detected in the air. If you have asthma, be sure to take your controller medication as prescribed, and keep a quick-relief inhaler with you in case of an asthma flare.
For more information about seasonal allergies, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2014.