With the changing of the leaves, comes more changes in your allergies. The sneezing, itchy eyes, and allergy headaches that appear during fall can be even more intense and annoying than spring allergy symptoms.
According to POPSUGAR, the biggest culprits triggering fall allergies are ragweed, other weeds and grasses. As the leaves and branches fall, outdoor molds can also cause fall allergies.
“Fall allergy season for those with weed allergies will start in August and last through October,” said Dr. Sanjeey Jain, a board-certified allergist at Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic. “Weather conditions such as a drought, increased rainfall, snow, temperature, and other factors can affect the length and severity of these allergy seasons.”
Fall allergies are more likely to trigger asthma, which is why you may feel your symptoms more at this time of the year. Some days the pollen counts will be higher or there is poor air quality, says Jain, and these two environmental factors can worsen symptoms.
Research shows that climate change is also affecting the length of allergy seasons, says POPSUGAR. Pollen seasons have been getting longer over the past few decades. Temperatures that fluctuate and changes in precipitation could mean that allergy season starts up 40 days earlier and last 19 days longer by the year 2100, and that pollen emissions could increase by 40%, according to a 2022 study published in Nature Communications.
But there’s another factor that may trigger more intense symptoms this season. Your watery eyes and bothersome sneezing may be more severe after all that hand sanitizing and social distancing during the pandemic.
“It’s called the hygiene hypothesis,” says Bryce Wylde, a functional medicine practitioner from Toronto, Canada. “Most of us haven’t been exposed to typical amounts of viruses or bacteria over the last year or two. When that happens, your immune system can become dysregulated. Once you are exposed to seasonal allergens, it is possible that your immune system will overreact, and your symptoms may be a whole lot worse than usual.”
Being proactive may help lessen your fall allergy symptoms. Be aware of local pollen counts which can be found on your local weather forecast app or on websites like the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Try to stay indoors when the counts are high.
Find a good allergist to identify your specific triggers so you can more effectively treat fall allergies. Jain recommends taking a daily, non-sedating antihistamine such as Zyrtec or Claritin during peak allergy season. Steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase are also helpful.
While it is ideal to get tested and identify your specific allergen, it is not always possible to avoid the triggers. But there are ways to reduce your exposure and reaction to allergens, says Wylde.
• Minimize your exposure to inflammatory agents. While you may not be able to avoid pollen altogether, you can steer clear of other inflammatory agents that exacerbate an allergic reaction. For example, avoid sugar and white flour which promote inflammatory cytokines. The same goes for smoke and alcohol which can make your symptoms worse.
• Choose natural products to reduce symptoms. “Homeopathic products such as Similasan Allergy Eye Relief eye drops, activate your body’s own defense mechanisms to address the underlying problem,” says Wylde. The drops contain no dyes, chemical vasoconstrictors, or steroids so they are safe to use any time. Using a Neti pot or saline nasal drops or spray can also help hydrate the sinus passages and clear mucus.
• Eat more brightly colored fruits and vegetables. “The mast cells, which are part of the immune system, react to allergies by releasing histamines, which cause itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing,” says Wylde. “Research shows that the quercetin in some foods helps stabilize the mast cells before they start releasing histamines. Common quercetin-rich foods include apples and onions.”
• Change the air filters in your heating and air conditioning system regularly. Replace your home filter at least every three months, says the expert, and always use a H.E.P.A. filter which can trap and remove at least 99% of dust, pollen, mold, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. Change your car filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, depending on what type of roads you drive on.
• Be aware of health products that can make allergies worse. Wylde says that consuming chamomile, honey and echinacea can cause serious cross reactions if you are allergic to ragweed because they belong to the same botanical family.
• Exercise indoors on days when the pollen count is high or the air appears smoggy. “Nearly every city or market has a weather network or allergy association that monitors pollen and smog indexes,” says the Wylde.
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