What Triggers Fall Allergies, and What Can Help?

      Any time you shift into a new season, the temperature and natural environment can affect your respiratory system. The most noticeable change for many is when a season brings on a new set of allergens. The most common association with seasonal allergies is the spring increase in pollen, but that does not mean you are in the clear come fall if your symptoms are triggered by spring plants. Fall is also a common season for allergies, as It turns out about 75% of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed which is the biggest allergy trigger for fall. Fall is a season loved by many; however, some find the season brings on annoying symptoms that they cannot wait to be done with.

What Triggers Fall Allergies?  

      As mentioned, Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. Though it releases pollen in August, it can last through October. For some people who are allergic to ragweed, certain fruits and vegetables can also cause allergy symptoms: sunflower seeds, certain potatoes, cucumber, banana, cantaloupe, zucchini, honeydew, and watermelon. Mold is another fall trigger and can be found both indoors and outside. It may be present all year long, but it thrives and grows in damp piles of leaves during autumn months. Dust Mites are the last fall allergen on this list and are a year-round indoor allergen as well. They typically only thrive indoors; however, they are a seasonal fall allergy because they can get dispersed into the air when you first turn on your heater, making one’s reaction more severe.

What Are Common Allergy Symptoms?

  • Watery itchy or irritated eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Rashes and hives on the skin
  • Itchy throat
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath (in rare cases)

Are Allergies Harmless?

      In most cases, symptoms are just annoying reactions that can feel like a constant cold, and with methods to relieve symptoms, allergies can have little to no impact on the lives of some individuals.  Therefore some, and maybe even the majority of people, find allergies harmless. But this does not mean they are harmless for everyone. Most otherwise healthy individuals with allergies triggered by the autumn season will not see any major impact on their day to day life, other than an increased risk for upper respiratory and sinus infections. Ongoing allergy symptoms can cause infections due to the congestion allowing viruses or bacteria to remain in the airways for longer. While for some a respiratory or sinus infection can easily be solved after a visit with primary care, for those already dealing with underlying illness allergies can cause more serious complications. Allergies and respiratory infections can cause exacerbations of conditions such as pulmonary disease and asthma. For those with severe cases of pulmonary disease, this leads to hospital admissions or readmissions. Another instance of a severe allergic reaction is when people are allergic and experience asthma symptoms when otherwise they do not experience asthma, this is called allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. In those cases, people experience symptoms including wheezing and shortness of breath that reduces the intake of oxygen.

How Do You Protect Yourself from Fall Allergens?

      If you are reading this article, you likely want to know ways to protect yourself from allergens in case you or someone you know has been experiencing symptoms. If you think you have been experiencing any of the listed allergy symptoms, you should see your primary care physician for their medical advice on your specific symptoms. They may recommend an allergy test where they see how your skin reacts to each allergen to determine which one is the problem. This is especially helpful as you can then tailor your protective measures to reduce exposure to that specific allergen.

Here are some tips that may help reduce that exposure:

  • Wearing a protective layer of clothing to take off when you come home. This way, allergens you are exposed to only when outside, such as ragweed or in some cases mold, will not continue to trigger your allergies from within the safety of your home. This is an easy and safe tip for the autumn season, as you will likely wear a jacket and other layers as the weather gets colder.
  • If you are allergic to ragweed, spending less time outside and avoiding certain foods that contain ragweed could reduce exposure and symptoms.
  • Dehumidifiers can help reduce dust and mold. Mold and dust mites thrive in damp spaces, so reducing humidity limits the moisture, staving off the growth of those allergens. Dehumidifiers also help clear up mucous secretions faster, which lowers the risk of infection.
  • Air conditioners could help to dry out the air, as cold air is often dry. Having one in your room can help remove moisture from the air as well, though with less regulation than a dehumidifier offers. Make sure any air conditioning filters are kept clean, or else dust mites could disperse and cause worsened symptoms.
  • If you are allergic to dust mites and often have these symptoms more severely in the fall, change out vent filters before first turning on the heat. It can help keep the allergy as manageable as your year-round indoor reactions usually are.
  • Finally, talk to your regular healthcare professional to determine if allergy medication is right for you. While some are sold over the counter, you should always talk to a professional before starting something new to determine if it is the right choice. There may be recommended options tailored more you your symptoms and situation, or a doctor could suggest a prescription for more severe allergies or those who would be more affected by symptoms.

      Fall has so many wonderful things to offer, it is a shame that for some allergies make the season dreadful. We hope this guide helps you better understand the allergens this season brings, and that anyone experiencing allergy symptoms this season finds a way to cope that is specific to their needs.