The crisp bite of the fall air means decking the kids out in scarves and sweaters so they can play in big piles of leaves. Unfortunately though, thanks to those leaves and other allergens such as ragweed and mold, fall can also signal another round of watery, swollen eyes, sniffling and sneezing.
And this year’s fall allergy season will probably be particularly rough, thanks to a warmer-than-usual spring and summer.
Some data shows that warmer temperatures can generate higher pollen production and help encourage the growth of pollen-producing plants. The amount of rain we get in the spring also impacts the fall allergy season, especially in terms of ragweed—which is the most common fall allergen.
Aside from itchy eyes and a runny nose, fall allergies can also cause an itchy throat, itching inside the nose, swollen eyelids or hives; and in some people, it can cause fatigue and irritability. In people with severe ragweed allergies, it may trigger asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest.
Luckily, suffering from fall allergies doesn’t mean you have to skip out on all of your favorite fall festivities. These quick tips can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
1. Skip out on yard work. If you’re a fall allergy sufferer, it may be worth it to pay a neighborhood kid to handle yard work. Big piles of leaves and mulch are breeding grounds for mold, especially when it’s damp outside, so raking and mowing may aggravate allergy symptoms.
2. Move your daily workouts to the evenings. Going for an afternoon jog isn’t the best idea if you’re dealing with allergy symptoms. Pollen counts are highest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and exposing yourself during those times can trigger the uncomfortable itching, swelling and runny nose commonly seen with fall allergies. Opt for an evening workout instead, when pollen counts are low.
3. Give your home an allergy-free makeover.
4. Wash away allergens. A hot shower will rinse off pollen and other allergens from your skin and hair, and a quick trip through the wash will help eliminate them from your clothes, explains Silvers. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands throughout the day – this will help to keep pollen away from your nose and mouth when you touch your face.
5. Try a nasal rinse like a neti pot. Using them at the end of the day when you’re done being outdoors can help remove some of the pollen from the nose. Nasal rinses like the neti pot work by flushing the nasal passages with warm water or a saline solution. The water or solution rinses away mucus, dust, pollen and other triggers that can aggravate your allergy symptoms.
Note: Talk to your doctor before trying the neti pot – overuse could potentially aggravate the mucus membranes in the nose. And remember to read its instructions for use and care, as it varies by manufacturer.
6. Manage allergies with meds. There are many effective over-the-counter medications available for allergy sufferers. Fairly recently, the FDA also approved the sale of over-the-counter nasal sprays, such as Flonase and Nasacort. The downside to [the sprays] though is that they tend to work best when used on a consistent basis, meaning you’d have to use it every day to get the best results.
For patients who want to steer clear of medication, you can also so allergy shots to build your body’s tolerance for certain allergens over time. The effects can last from years to up to a decade or more, depending on the person.