As crisp autumn air arrives, it can bring more than cooler temperatures. People with seasonal allergies may notice their allergy symptoms acting up in the fall.
"The biggest culprit of allergies in the fall is weeds. Winds can blow lightweight pollens longer distances—and that can be bad news for allergy sufferers," says allergist Cecilia Nguyen, MD, of Intermountain Southridge Clinic.
"It doesn't really matter what's in your neighbor's yard or your yard because weeds can pollinate for miles," she adds. "On windy days, you'll see a lot more pollen flying around. It can be spring, summer, or fall, and depending if you're allergic to any indoor allergens as well, you can have allergies year-round."
What are common allergy symptoms?
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
What are the different ways to treat allergies?
- Avoid or reduce exposure to weeds, trees, grasses, molds, or other allergens. Monitor the pollen count – especially if you're planning to spend time outside.
- Use nasal spray. Over-the-counter options include Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasacort. Prescription sprays are available through your allergist.
- Oral medications include over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications and antihistamines.
- Immunotherapy, usually done through allergy shots.
Other tips for allergy sufferers:
Wear a mask when raking leaves, mowing or gardening. Raking leaves can stir agitating pollen and mold into the air, which causes allergy and asthma symptoms. People with weed, grass, or mold allergies should wear a NIOSH-rated N95 mask when raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or gardening.
Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter indoors. If you're allergic to indoor allergens, indoor air filters may help reduce allergens inside your home and improve indoor air quality.
Track your allergy symptoms. Write down when and where you have symptoms. An allergist can help you develop a treatment plan, which can include both medication and avoidance techniques to help you manage and treat your allergies.
Skin tests can help identify what you're allergic to. If you're having trouble identifying what you're allergic to, a skin test might help you assess your allergies. A quick test can see if you have reactions to different pollens, molds, dust, mites, cats, dogs, horses, feathers, etc.
How are the tests conducted? "We don't use a needle. We don't expect any blood. We just dip a little plastic prong in the allergen, then use it to lightly scratch the top surface of your skin. The worst part for most adults is really the itching because you can't touch it for 15 minutes," says Dr. Nguyen.
Immunotherapy can help your body learn to tolerate certain allergens. Once your allergist has identified what you're allergic to, he or she may suggest immunotherapy. "Immunotherapy works by training your immune system to get used to the allergen by giving you little bits of the allergen," says Dr. Nguyen. That's traditionally done with shots. There are also some oral tablet immunotherapy options available for certain allergens.
New oral tablets can replace allergy shots for some people with grass allergies. "For grass allergies, there are oral tablets you put under the tongue like Grastek and Oralair that can be taken instead of getting shots. Patients interested in this therapy would need to start 12 weeks prior to allergy season and take the medication daily until the grass pollen season ends," says Dr. Nguyen. If your allergies start in the spring and you'd like to find out if these new oral preventive medications will work for you, you'll want to see your allergist as winter begins.