It’s August, and the pollen of spring and blooms of summer are finally beginning to fade. So how come you’re still sneezing? Fall allergies can trigger just as many symptoms as spring and summer, unfortunately. Ragweed is the biggest culprit – it starts to release pollen with cool nights and warm days in August, but can last into September and October. About 75% of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed.
Mold is another fall trigger. Mold spores love wet spots outside, such as piles of damp leaves. Or your fall issue may be dust mites. They can get stirred into the air the first time you turn on your heat in the fall and trigger sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses. Mold and dust mites are common in schools, so returning to the classroom can trigger allergies for some kids.
Our doctors can help find out what’s causing your watery, itchy eyes and runny nose. They’ll talk to you about your medical history and symptoms, and may recommend a skin test. To do this, the doctor will place a tiny amount of the allergen on your skin – usually on your back or forearm – and then prick or scratch the skin underneath. If you’re allergic to it, you’ll get a small, raised bump that itches like a mosquito bite. Sometimes a blood test may also be used to figure out a cause.
There are medications you can use to ease symptoms of allergies. Steroid nasal sprays can reduce inflammation in your nose. Antihistamines help stop sneezing, sniffling, and itching. Decongestants help relieve stuffiness and dry up the mucus in of your nose. Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops can also help you feel better. You can buy some allergy medications without a prescription, but talk to our doctors to make sure you get the right one.
To manage symptoms on your own try staying indoors with the doors and windows closed when pollen is at its peak (usually in the late morning or midday). Before you turn on your heat for the first time, clean your heating vents and change the filter. Bits of mold and other allergens can get trapped in the vents over the summer and will fill the air as soon as you start the furnace. Use a HEPA filter in your heating system to remove pollen, mold, and other particles from the air. Use a dehumidifier to keep your air at between 35% and 50% humidity, and consider wearing a mask when you rake leaves so you don’t breathe in mold spores.