Winning the Fight against Fall Allergies

Winning the Fight against Fall Allergies

5 Tactics for Defeating the Season’s Worst Allergy Foes

When fall arrives, do your allergies seem to get the best of you? Do sneezing, wheezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes leave you feeling run down and defeated? You’re not alone. 

“If it feels as though your allergy symptoms flare up earlier and earlier every year, you’re probably not wrong,” says allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Climate change may actually be causing an earlier and longer fall allergy season. In addition, windy days can mean heightened allergy symptoms because wind can carry the pollen from ragweed, grasses, and trees up to 100 miles from its source.”

Ragweed pollen is the biggest fall allergy trigger, and it needs to be avoided, along with other allergic triggers like mold and grass pollen. To help you come out on top this fall, try these five tactics for defeating the season’s worst allergy foes.

1. Formulate a battle plan.

Although they’re called fall allergies, many allergic triggers start to appear in mid-to-late August. Start taking your allergy medications about two weeks before your symptoms normally start. Getting in front of your symptoms means controlling them a lot better. Don’t stop your medications until pollen counts have been down for about two weeks.

2. Fight mold.

Mold allergies can be tough to outrun. Mold can grow anywhere there is water, and it’s a frequent foe in the fall. Mold can be found in your basement, bathroom, a leaky cabinet under your sink, or in a pile of dead leaves in your backyard. The key to reducing mold is moisture control. Be sure to use bathroom fans and clean up any standing water immediately. Scrub any visible mold from surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. You can also help ward off mold by keeping home humidity below 60 percent and cleaning gutters regularly.

3. Keep pollen at bay.

Ragweed, or any pollen that triggers your allergy symptoms, needs to be kept out of your house. Leave your shoes at the door, and take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors. Close both car and home windows, and use your air conditioning so pollen doesn’t get indoors. Monitor both pollen and mold counts to help you know when you’re less likely to be under siege.

4. Arm yourself for combat.

Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when mowing the lawn or doing other outdoor chores. Wear gloves so you won’t transfer pollen to your eyes or skin. Take your allergy medication before heading outside. If your allergies are severe, consider having someone else do the gardening and fall raking.

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5. Find an ally.

See your doctor or an allergist. Allergists are trained to identify your allergies and provide a personal treatment plan. They can also give immunotherapy – allergy shots – which target your exact triggers and can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Allergy shots can also prevent the development of asthma in some children with seasonal allergies.

Know Your Foe: Ragweed

While many people regard spring as prime pollen season, one type of pollen wreaks havoc in late summer and fall. Ragweed pollen usually reaches peak levels in mid-September. This type of pollen can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever), which affects as many as 23 million Americans.

There are 17 species of ragweed in the United States. The weeds grow in most regions, typically blooming and producing a fine-powder pollen from August into November.

Symptoms of ragweed allergy are similar to those of other pollen allergies:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headaches
  • Irritated eyes
  • Itchy throat

Ragweed pollen can also aggravate asthma symptoms, leading to increased coughing and wheezing.

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Fall/Winter 2017-2018.