Many people look forward to outdoor activities in the fall, but seasonal allergies can put a damper on that enthusiasm. Fall allergies are a common issue: According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 25 percent of adults and 20 percent of children suffer from seasonal allergies, including in the fall.
Many people begin to see allergy symptoms in late summer to early fall, and symptoms can continue through the end of the year. While there’s no cure, there are ways to manage your allergies.
Dr. Daniel Chu with Mercy Clinic Primary Care – Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith, Arkansas, says most common fall allergies include:
· Pollen such as ragweed (the most common); sheep sorrel; and grass.
· Mold from leaf and foliage debris.
· Dust mites and pet dander.
Fall allergies can cause increased mucus secretions of the upper airways, resulting in runny nose, sinus drainage; post-nasal drip; itchy throat; and coughing and sneezing. Dr. Chu says grittiness and itchiness of the eyes and swelling of the skin after contact with allergens are common symptoms as well.
“Unfortunately, allergy triggers are just about everywhere,” Dr. Chu says. “But there are things that we can do to limit exposure to these allergens.”
Not all people who suffer from allergies will have the same symptoms. Most mild cases can be treated with nasal saline sprays, oral antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Benadryl, or other nasal sprays such as Astepro, Flonase and Nasonex. Dr. Chu also recommends drinking plenty of warm fluids to keep mucus from concentrating while allowing the steam to help open up the nasal passages. Immediate relief decongestants such as Afrin can help, but their use should be discontinued after three consecutive days as it can lead to worsening/rebound congestion, he says. And as always, for all medications, be sure to read the labels and take as instructed, Dr. Chu adds.
How can I avoid allergy triggers?
Dr. Chu says there are a variety of ways to avoid allergy triggers in the fall, including:
· Avoid being outdoors if it is windy.
· Wash your hands and face and changes clothes after coming in from being outdoors.
· Keep moist areas in the house, particularly the bathroom, well-ventilated by opening doors and windows to prevent mold from settling in.
· Clear out debris from gutters.
· Avoid outdoor chores such as mowing or weeding the garden.
· Vacuum frequently.
· Keep windows and doors closed when possible.
What if over-the-counter treatments aren’t working?
A trip to see your doctor to discuss a different approach may be in order if over-the-counter treatments aren’t helping, Dr. Chu says. Prescription medication or allergy shots may be recommended. An allergy specialist would be able to perform a diagnostic test to pinpoint the cause of the allergy, allowing you to find a treatment option that works best.
In addition, severe allergies can lead to breathing difficulty, especially for people with asthma. Swelling of the airway can be life-threatening, meaning a patient needs to be seen in the ER immediately.