With the beautiful fall season comes the terrible fall allergies. Fall allergies mean itchy, sneezy, and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies, including fall allergies, affect more than 35 million Americans and cost the U.S. economy more than $7 billion in lost productivity.
What causes fall allergies?
- Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger for the fall season. It is a yellow flowering weed that usually starts releasing pollen in August and can last until September and October. About three quarters of the people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed. Ragweed can travel hundreds of miles on the wind so even if you haven’t seen one, you may still come in contact with its pollen.
- Mold is another trigger in the fall. Mold spores are common airborne allergens that are light, very small, and easily inhaled into the lungs. Spores rise high in the atmosphere during the warming of the day, falling back to the ground with the cool of evening. Mold spores love wet spots outside like piles of damp leaves so take caution when raking leaves outside.
- And finally, don’t forget about dust mites which can get stirred into the air when you start turning on the heater in the fall. Dust mites can trigger sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.
If you feel like your allergies are worse, or lingering longer than normal this year, it’s because they are. Climate change, and the resulting higher temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide, allow pollen-producing plants to live longer and to produce more potent pollen. And this year, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology announced that the season will extend through October, rather than ending in September as it normally does.
What are the symptoms of fall allergies?
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
Pollen is most often released in the mornings , so be extra cautious on mornings as well as on windy days when huge amounts of pollen can be easily released into the wind. If you have fall allergies, here are some tips to avoid pollen and mold as well as some ways to be cautious in order to prevent symptoms:
- Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed when pollen is at its peak, especially in the mornings. You can also check pollen counts in your area to find out if there is a pollen peak where you live.
- 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 humidifier if you need to, to keep your air at between 35% and 50% humidity.
- Wear a mask when you rake leaves so you don’t breathe in mold spores.
- Use a face mask when you are outside, especially between 5 and 10 a.m. and on windy days.
- Remove pollen from your skin and hair by showering frequently.
- Dry your clothes inside in the dryer instead of hanging clothes outside.
- When you first turn on your car air conditioner, leave your windows open and avoid breathing the air for several minutes until mold spores can disperse.
- Remove pollen from your skin and hair by showering frequently.
If your seasonal allergy symptoms are interfering with your daily life or causing you bothersome symptoms, visit an allergist who can diagnose your allergy and recommend ways to manage it. Dr. Silverman from EyeCare2020, an award winning LASIK Surgeon and Medical Director, advises to start treatment a month before seasonal allergies start to avoid a full attack. For fall allergies the best time to start medication would be early July instead of August when the first pollen start flying and affecting people.
Treatment for seasonal allergies may involve medications such as:
- Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (such as Singulair)
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Decongestants (as pills or nasal sprays)
- Immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots).
You can buy some allergy medications without a prescription, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose the right one. Decongestant nasal sprays, for example, should only be used for three days. If you use them longer, you may actually get more congested. And if you have high blood pressure, some allergy drugs may not be right for you.
Other than medications, the foods you eat and don’t eat can help alleviate symptoms, particularly seasonal foods that you can find at your farmers market. Here are some these delicious and nutritious foods to include in your diet when dealing with fall allergies:
- Broccoli– Not only is broccoli high in allergy-relieving vitamin C, it’s a member of the crucifer family, plants that have been shown to clear up blocked sinuses. Other vegetables high in vitamin C include cabbage and cauliflower, related members of the crucifer family.
- Kale– This superfood is also a member of the crucifer family but is also rich in carotenoids, packing a form of vitamin A that is thought to improve allergy symptoms.
- Collard greens– Their phytochemical content, mainly, carotenoids, eases allergy issues. The darker the leaves, the higher the carotenoid content.
- Onions and garlic– Onions and garlic are packed with quercetin, another secret weapon that helps fight allergies by acting like an antihistamine. Quercetin also acts like vitamin C and quells inflammation in your system, which helps stem the side effects associated with allergic inflammation, such as stuffy noses. However, quercetin isn’t absorbed very easily from food. So, although eating lots of onions and garlic may ward off some symptoms, you might consider a 400- to 500-mg supplement if you have very severe fall allergies.
- Pumpkins– Like broccoli and leafy greens, pumpkins are rich in allergy-fighting carotenoids.
- Carrots– Another carotinoid powerhouse, carrots contain lots of healthy beta-carotene to help ward off your ragweed misery.
- Celery– Celery is full of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory compounds, making it a great tool in fighting not just allergies, but also high blood pressure and chronic pain. It’s one vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked without losing access to its nutrients. And don’t ignore the leaves; chop those up for use in soups and stews to get their vitamin C content as well.
- Stinging nettle-Although not necessarily a food, stinging nettle helps with inflammation and also contains histamine, a chemical your body produces during an allergic reaction. Look for 500-mg freeze-dried nettle capsules in your natural health store, and take three times a day until symptoms are gone. Long-term use of the herb is not recommended, since it can deplete your potassium stores.
What not to eat: Even though foods can be great natural allergy cures, some can actually trigger allergy symptoms, a condition called “oral allergy syndrome”. So if you’re a fall allergy sufferer, here are few foods to either cook first or avoid entirely during allergy season: apples, bananas, melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew), cucumber, zucchini, chamomile tea, echinacea, honey, and nuts.
There are many things you can do to ease the pain and discomfort of fall allergies. Knowing what causes attacks and when you have allergies is the first step to prevention and treatment. If you wear contacts speak to your eye doctor about symptom relief or consider switching to your glasses temporarily. Finally, don’t rub your eyes with your hands or tissues, it only inflames the skin and your eyes and will make you feel worse.
Do you have any other ways you survive allergy season?
Cassi is a research guru and content crafter for the Marketing Zen Group and EyeCare20/20. As a Psychology Major she thrives on creating unique and insightful content about marketing, trends, health and fashion. In her spare time she has a passion for music, reading and psychology. You can connect with her on twitter @kungfucassi.