When winter ended and the sun finally began to shine again in spring, you were armed with medications and tissues to tackle allergy season head-on. But fall allergies can be just as severe as their spring counterparts. If you find yourself constantly sniffling when the leaves start to change, you might be experiencing fall allergies.
From identifying the problematic allergens to seeking help at an urgent care clinic, there's a lot to cover with fall allergies. Dive into this guide to learn how to best manage your symptoms this year and have a fall free of pesky allergies.
Be aware of common fall allergens
With winter freezes causing most wildlife to go dormant in the coming months, it may not seem like there are many possibilities for fall allergens. While there are certainly fewer than in the spring, the severity of the allergens makes it more than worthwhile to learn how to identify them. Here are some of the most common fall allergens:
In the autumn, ragweed is one of the biggest culprits of the allergy symptoms you feel, making it quite the overachiever. Just one ragweed plant can make up to one billion grains of pollen per season. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 75% of people who experience springtime allergies will also feel the effects of ragweed pollen. Ragweed has small yellow flowers and starts blooming in August. Despite this summer bloom, it tends to cause allergic symptoms well into the fall and only stops when the first freeze kills the plant.
Mold and mildew
Mold and mildew are particularly problematic allergens because they can grow both outdoors and indoors. They usually grow year-round, but the autumn gives them more opportunities to grow on damp fallen leaves and compost piles. Any damp areas in your home, such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens, are also prone to mold and mildew growth. The spores from which they grow and that they produce are spread by the wind or indoor air, much like pollen. The first frost doesn't kill mold and mildew, but the winter months do typically cause them to go dormant.
Pet dander and fur
While people with pet allergies experience them throughout the year, they tend to become more severe in the fall as you close up your home and have less air circulation. Up to 40% of people with seasonal allergies also have pet allergies, making the fall an especially difficult time for many people. Typically, an extra-sensitive immune system will trigger a person's pet allergies, as it reacts to dander, fur, or saliva from pets. Share this fun fact with every dog person or cat lady you know: Dogs and cats are the most common offenders, although cats are twice as likely as dogs to trigger allergic reactions in people.
As your heating system kicks in for the season, the dust mites that have been lying in it are stirred up and can trigger allergies in many people. These mites are microscopic arthropods that feed on the flakes of skin that humans shed naturally throughout the house. Dust mites are a common allergen throughout the year, but they thrive in temperatures that range from the high 60s and mid 70s. They usually die when the humidity drops below 70% or in extreme temperatures.
Now that you know the most common allergens, you know what you need to tackle. Let's take a look at the best tips to managing fall allergies.
Top tips for fall allergy relief
Fall allergy symptoms can vary, but more often than not they involve watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, a runny nose, dry and itchy skin, wheezing, or itching in the back of the throat. In more extreme cases, symptoms such as an upset stomach or diarrhea may warrant a visit to a walk-in clinic near you.
One of the best ways to manage your allergy symptoms in the fall is to monitor the pollen levels. Local weather channels and newspapers typically include the day's pollen count in their reports. And if you really want to dig in, you can also check your area's pollen levels at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's National Allergy Bureau. If these sources say pollen levels are high, try to limit your outdoor activity for the day.
Of course, not going outside is easier said than done when you have a busy schedule and places to be - that’s life! When you do need to go out, wear protective clothing that keeps pollen away from your hair, skin and eyes. Go ahead and grab that warm knit hat. If you need to do yard work, such as raking or mowing, wear a protective face mask as well to keep the pollen and mold your work is stirring up out of your system.
Removing pollen from your person and your home as often as possible is another effective way of minimizing your allergen exposure. Once you're done spending time outside for the day, wash the pollen off of your skin and hair with a quick shower. Be sure to change shoes as soon as you enter the house (a perfect excuse to get yourself some cozy house slippers) or leave your shoes outside. You can also keep a change of clothes right by the door so that you can take off the clothes that have collected pollen. Otherwise, your clothes may be carrying in allergens from the outdoors and spreading them around your home - toss them straight in the washing machine!
Although you may be tempted to open your windows and catch the refreshing fall breeze, you'll want to keep them closed throughout allergy season. An open window is an open invitation for pesky allergens to enter your home. Instead, use air conditioning to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Remember to change the air filters regularly to keep your indoor air clean. If you still don’t notice a positive difference, you could also consider installing a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter system to purify the air inside your home even further.
If your allergies are triggered by dust mites or pet dander, your plan of attack should be to clean as much as possible. Regularly wash your bedding and vacuum your carpets to better rid your home of pet allergens. Clean your air vents before turning on the central heating for the first time after summer to reduce the amount of dust mites. Covering your mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers also helps control dust mite populations. You can use a dehumidifier as well to keep the humidity below 50% in your home, thereby creating a less-friendly environment for dust mites, mold, and mildew.
Walk in to an urgent care for allergy treatment
You don't have to needlessly suffer through fall. It’s pumpkin spice season, after all! If your allergy symptoms are disrupting your sleep or interfering with your daily activities, visit a MultiCare Immediate Clinic near you. About 85% of urgent care clinics are open seven days a week, giving you plenty of opportunities to see a medical professional. At Immediate Clinic, our medical team can help you identify your allergy triggers and suggest the best ways to mitigate your symptoms. For more severe cases, we can help you explore prescription options or refer you to an allergy specialist.
Don't spend any more of this fall season suffering from allergy symptoms. Visit an Immediate Clinic location today to see a medical professional and start your journey toward allergy relief.