Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall Allergies – How to Fight Back When Autumn Wants to Take You Down

How to Prevent Fall Allergy Symptoms - Photo by Muffet
Those who suffer from seasonal allergies often find that Autumn's brilliant hues usher in an overload of annoying allergy symptoms. The weather begins to cool and you've finally gotten into the Fall rhythm and then...ZAP! Call it hay fever, allergic rhinitis, fall allergies, or whatever you like – few people would ask for this vicious visitor as the weather begins to cool.

Autumn can pack a big allergy punch. Symptoms sometimes lead to infections like sinusitis or increased symptoms of chronic lung conditions such as asthma or COPD. This often translates to increased fatigue and stress with loss of sleep, missed work and/or school hours, and missed opportunities to enjoy one of nature's most beautiful seasons.

Examples of allergic symptoms may include:
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • stuffy nose
  • itchy eyes
  • watery eyes
  • dark circles under the eyes
Recognizing symptoms one has experienced in the past can help allergy sufferers begin to see patterns. Keeping a record of symptoms and when they appear may be quite useful. This information may help to predict times when allergy symptoms are most likely to appear in the future – the body has a way of remembering those triggers as it tries to defend itself any time one's body is exposed to those substances again.

What Causes Fall Allergies - Photo by Albert Bridge
The most common Fall allergens are:
  • pollen (often from trees and weeds like ragweed)
  • mold (colder states tend to peak in the Fall while warmer states usually peak in the summer)
The National Allergy Bureau provides mold and pollen counts from certified stations across America. They offer a personalized email alert account for those who wish to sign up for the service. They also have an app for an iPhone, iPad, Android, or Blackberry. This data can take some of the guesswork out of the equation since allergen counts depend on changing weather patterns rather than a predictable date on a calendar.

An allergist/immunologist can work with someone who suffers from allergies to develop a customized plan that might include allergy testing, immunotherapy (allergy shots), prescription or over-the-counter allergy medications, and specific, personalized suggestions for environmental controls that are likely to be most effective based on his/her assessment and past allergy history.

How to Avoid Fall Allergies - Photo of Allergy Testing by Wolfgang Ihloff
Preventing allergy symptoms tends to be more effective than attempting to control symptoms once they begin. Check with your doctor to see if any of these preventive strategies without medications might be good options for you:
  • Avoid or limit going outside during peak allergy season – dry, windy days tend to have high pollen counts.
  • Wear a mask when participating in outdoor activities such as raking leaves or mowing the grass.
  • Bathe, wash your hair, and change clothes when coming inside after spending time outside – if that's not possible, you might consider wearing an extra layer of garments and a hat that can be easily removed and wash your hands, arms, and face when coming indoors.
  • Dry clothes and bedding inside the house rather than hanging on a clothes line outdoors.
  • Keep doors and windows to the house closed – many people enjoy the fresh air, but someone with allergies may discover that the fresh air indoors seems to be on a mission to search and destroy his/her ability to breathe.
  • Clean vents and change filters before turning on the furnace for the first time.
  • A humidifier and/or air purifier may help some people who suffer from allergies.
  • Some people find cleaning the sinuses daily with a neti pot or saline nasal spray to be very helpful.
  • Control or eliminate additional allergens and irritants, such as indoor smoke, dust, mold, and pet dander.
A doctor might recommend starting allergy medications or changing dosages before the allergy season starts and continuing on a regular basis until pollen and/or mold counts are down. Those who receive allergy shots may wish to see if more frequent dosages would be helpful during peak seasons.

If allergy symptoms worsen or persist despite decreased pollen and mold counts, a secondary infection may have developed or a chronic condition may be complicating issues. People who have allergies may develop new allergies at any time. Work or school environmental conditions may also trigger symptoms. Common irritants like smoke and perfumes may worsen symptoms. People with persistent symptoms may also wish to explore the possibility of additional allergies such as food, dust mites, medications, animal dander, latex, insect bites, and/or cockroaches.

Tips for Dealing with Fall Allergies - Photo by Douglas Muth
Those who suffer from Fall allergies may feel like they need to hibernate in a huge hamster ball during Autumn, but that option might prove to be a bit cumbersome. Instead of being down for the count as Autumn approaches, utilizing preventive measures may help you stay up and about and enjoying the wondrous beauty of the season.

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