In early spring, pollen from trees is the first to become airborne. In late spring and summer, grass pollen and mold spores take flight. In late summer and fall, weeds (most commonly ragweed) are to blame. But pollen isn’t the only troublemaker, and you can be allergic to more than one substance. Mold spores outnumber pollen grains, growing on soil and vegetation, such as fallen leaves. Year-round allergies may be triggered by indoor allergens (such as household mold, dust mites & animal dander). People with such allergies are at greater risk of earlier and more severe symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Stay indoors, if possible, when pollen levels are high (dry, windy days are usually the worst). Radio and television stations often broadcast pollen counts, and you can get local information and forecasts from the National Allergy Bureau (telephone 800-9-POLLEN) and at pollen.com. Try to do outdoor tasks in the evening, when pollen tends to be lower. But even if counts are low, you may still have a reaction. As the season progresses, some people become more sensitive to allergens; on the other hand, some have more severe symptoms during the first few weeks of the season.
Many people with allergic rhinitis are affected by at least one plant in their home, most commonly ficus and yucca, followed by ivy and palm trees. Mold spores are often found on the leaves of indoor plants and can cause allergic symptoms. Such allergens from plants may become airborne and become part of household dust.
Mowing the lawn and raking leaves kick up pollen and mold spores. If you can’t get someone else to tackle these chores, wear a disposable dust mask or a higher-filtration model (such as N95), available at hardware stores. Be sure there are no air gaps around the edges when you adjust it.
If you’re spending time outdoors, wear wraparound sunglasses to keep allergens out of your eyes. Leave your shoes outside when you come in. Take a shower after doing yard work or just being outside when pollen counts are high; then put on clean clothes. (To prevent allergen exposure, don’t line-dry your laundry outdoors.) Washing your hair may prevent nighttime sneezing caused by pollen and mold spores that fall from your hair onto the pillow.
If you’re allergic to pollen, you may also react to raw produce or other foods with a similar protein. Called oral allergy syndrome, symptoms include itching and sometimes swelling of the mouth, throat, lips, tongue or face. For example, people allergic to grass may react to peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons and oranges, while those with ragweed allergies may have trouble with bananas, cucumbers, melon and zucchini. Avoid problematic foods during hay fever season; or bake, microwave or peel the food or try canned.
Don't assume that moving to another part of the country will prevent your hay fever. There are many types of pollen (especially grasses) and mold spores throughout the country, so it's unlikely that moving will solve the problem. Even if the types of pollen that have been bothering you are not in the new region, your immune system may end up reacting to those in your new location.