Your Guide to Fall Allergies
During fall, there is a high instance of allergies. The severity varies from year to year depending on the warmth, humidity, and precipitation. In falls preceded by warm summers and high precipitation, allergies are more severe and widespread according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). According to the ACAAI between 10% and 30% of the population suffers from allergies. In the fall, estimates show that 75% of people who suffer from allergies will experience increased symptoms. To get through this month with minimal discomfort and complications, it helps to look at;
Ragweed is the most well-known source of allergens. Its pollen is a potent allergen. What makes it notorious is how far it spreads. It is so rife that radio and TV stations include reports about ragweed counts in the fall weather reports. When ragweed spreads, it covers an area like a blanket. Removing ragweed from your vicinity is not likely to prevent its spread as the pollen usually spreads over a large area from many sources. Pollen from other plants like grasses and trees can also cause allergies. Pollen from weeds like pigweed, cockleweed, Russian thistle, sagebrush, and tumbleweed are also known to cause allergic reactions. While not as potent as ragweed pollen in most cases, they still add allergens to the air. Mold is another notorious allergen. According to the ACIAA, up to 10% of the population is allergic to spores from the mold. Mold spores can come from outdoors or within the house. The spores increase during fall when mold grows on dead leaves, bark, and other damp places. Another allergen during fall is dust. When heating resumes, dust blows through the furnace vents where they had accumulated.
When to see a doctor
Allergies are often mistaken for other ailments like the common cold. It is only in cases where allergies affect the skin and other parts that are not associated with colds that people seek medical attention promptly. Some of the symptoms that mimic colds include;
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Sinus pressure
- Decreased sense of smell or taste
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyes
These symptoms are common to other ailments, so for a correct diagnosis, it’s important to see a doctor. Normally, a general practitioner can handle mild allergies, but for those who suffer greatly from allergies, it is prudent to see an allergist who can treat and take measures to prevent further complications.
The type of doctor to see
Allergies are complicated because they show symptoms that can be easily mistaken for other diseases. Furthermore, the complications that can arise require specialist care. Three types of doctors can treat fall allergies;
- Allergists: Allergists have the all-round expertise in handling allergies. They consider the severity, history and regularity of allergic reactions before deciding on the best course of treatment. Allergists have the expertise to handle respiratory problems that often accompany fall allergies. Where allergies involve other symptoms like dermatitis, the allergist can consult with a dermatologist.
- Ear Nose and Throat Specialists (ENT): Most allergic reactions involve sinus problems. Theses fall into the expertise of ENT specialists who know how to manage and treat sinus problems. Allergic reactions that lead to sinus problems are often characterized by cold and flu like symptoms like running noses and sore throats.
- General practitioners: Normally, a general practitioner can mild handle allergies, but they often refer cases to specialists. This is because most allergies are not one off, occurrences. They can recur and require long term or seasonal management and treatment.
Since allergies are caused by sensitive immune systems reacting to allergens the most common remedy is immunotherapy which helps the body tolerate allergens leading to fewer symptoms. Doctors can recommend other treatments like steroids for inflammation, decongestants for congestion and antihistamines to reduce symptoms like itching and sneezing. Recommendations will depend on the severity of the symptoms and patient history.
Allergens are stealthy, little particles, that can not be seen with the naked eye. Thanks to science, many allergens have been identified, and their characteristics noted. The levels of prevention can be broken into two:
- Keeping away from allergens
- Strengthening the body to reduce sensitivity to allergens
Keeping away from allergens
As discussed earlier, allergens like ragweed pollen cover an area like a blanket making them difficult to prevent. It is, however, possible to reduce exposure to such allergens by staying indoors. Follow the ragweed count reports over the fall, and when they are high it might be a good time to decrease exposure by:
- Avoiding the outdoors as much as possible and where you must venture, consider a face mask.
- Closing windows and reducing the amount of unfiltered air that gets into the house.
- Drying clothes inside. If dried outside, clothes can trap the allergen.
- Shower regularly to remove any pollen and other allergens from the skin.
The same measures apply to other types of pollen. Mold and mildew are a different type of allergen. Their spores can be reduced by taking the following precautions:
- Checking out damp places in the house and removing any mold. Also, ensure you keep humidity levels in the house low as high humidity creates an environment for molds to thrive.
- Raking leaves regularly. It might be prudent to use a face mask when doing this.
- Maintaining house cleanliness and doing repairs promptly. This prevents leaks which create a good environment for mold.
Dust is another allergen that can cause discomfort. It is the easiest allergen to avoid by Cleaning the furnace filters and other parts of the house regularly. Other measures that can help prevent allergic reactions include taking medication before the symptoms show up. This should be done according to the doctor's instructions. If the doctor advises you to take medication when the ragweed count reaches a certain level, follow the instructions. Many doctors advise patients who suffer from allergies to do this. Since allergic reactions are caused by different triggers for each person, work to identify them. It is imperative for patients to know their triggers so they can avoid them.
Strengthening the body to tolerate allergens
Common foods can help reduce allergic reactions include:
- Foods containing quercetin- Peppers, berries, onions, and parsley contain quercetin which can reduce reactions to allergens.
- Fruits rich in vitamin c -Kiwi fruit and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin c
- Pineapple which has bromelain which can reduce irritation
- Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Kefir and honey
All these foods help the body by providing nutrients that can slow, or reduce allergies.
Seeking medical advice on allergic reactions is important. Since some allergic reactions present similarly to the common cold. Do not make assumptions or suffer in silence. Some medications, like nose drops, are available over the counter and they can aide in dealing with allergies. However, it is prudent to seek medical attention rather than combat symptoms with these medications. Allergic reactions can lead to complications if they are not detected early.