September 26, 2018
4 Ways to Fight Fall Allergies

4 Ways to Fight Fall Allergies

by Health After 50  

Long after the weather starts to cool, the effects of a hot, muggy summer wreak havoc for fall allergy sufferers. One reason is because, in many areas of the country, warmer periods mixed with precipitation create the perfect recipe for ragweed and mold spores—the leading culprits for fall allergy symptoms like an itchy throat and eyes, a runny nose, and repeated sneezing.

Unlike spring allergies, which are typi­cally triggered by tree pollen, fall allergies are most often caused by ragweed, which releases pollen from August through November. Mold, which thrives in moist, damp environments (such as under rotting leaves), can also leave allergy sufferers in misery. Lesser-known fall allergy triggers include plants such as burning bush, sage­brush, tumbleweed, and Russian thistle.

Prepare ahead of peak symptoms with these tips from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI):

1. Take allergy medications before symptoms start. Begin taking medica­tions early, about two weeks before your symptoms typically start. (See your pri­mary care provider or allergist for the right treatment.) Don’t stop taking them until pollen counts have remained low consistently for about two weeks.

2. Combat indoor mold. Because mold can grow anywhere there’s dampness, controlling moisture is key. Keep humid­ity below 60 percent in your home, use bathroom fans, and clean up standing water right away. Scrub away visible mold with a household cleaner (or even soap and water), and dry thoroughly.

3. Reduce exposure to outdoor aller­gens and keep them out of the house. Outdoor chores like raking leaves or mowing the lawn can stir pollen and molds into the air. Use a face mask labeled N95 or N100 (available at hardware stores, pharmacies, and Amazon.com) to avoid breathing in allergens. Wear non­latex gloves and wraparound safety glasses to minimize contact with your skin and eyes. Try to keep your lawn short throughout the fall to prevent overgrowth that produces more pollen. Leave shoes at the door, and shower and change your clothes as soon as you come in. If possible, use air conditioning at home and in the car, keeping windows closed.

4. Monitor pollen and mold counts when heading outdoors. Daily weather reports often include counts. You can also visit the AAAAI website for pollen and mold levels. In the fall, pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours. Warm, windy days are among the worst for allergies. While rain can suppress pollen, pollen counts can soar right after showers and mold spores can breed in standing water. Stay indoors as much as you can when counts are high.

This article first appeared in the September 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.