The air is crisp, your house smells like the latest Fall-scented candle from Bath and Body Works, and you’ve just enjoyed a warm, pumpkin-spiced latte. Just when it seems like nothing can ruin your sweet Fall vibes, your eyes start watering and itching, your throat gets scratchy, and sinus pressure sneaks up on you out of nowhere. It’s eitherthe ‘vid, the flu, or those pesky Fall allergies that everyone likes to forget about during crunchy leaf season. Unfortunately, springtime pollen isn’t the only thing that messes with people—for some unfortunate souls, the Fall is when they suffer the most. Here are some common Fall allergy triggers, along with some information about what we can do to avoid them and/or treat them.
There are many different types of weed pollen, depending on where you live, but the chief culprit for most people in North America is ragweed. Ragweed is one of those things we love to talk about every year, but not many people know exactly what (or where) it is. Ragweed plants (weeds) are those really pretty yellow blooms you see growing in open fields between August and November. Unfortunately, you don’t need to pull off the highway and dive head first into a field to be negatively affected by it. Ragweed begins releasing tiny grains of pollen as early as the last week of July, and thanks to the wind, its pollen can travel hundreds of miles and even survive a mild winter. If you’re suffering, you’re in good company. Approximately 23 million people in the U.S. suffer from hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) due to ragweed and look to medications and allergy shots for relief. Symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, itchy throats and irritated, itchy eyes. For patients taking antihistamines, it might help to start taking your medication two weeks before ragweed season is at its worst. Similar to other grass allergies, ragweed pollen is at its highest during the morning hours, on windy days, and just after a rainstorm, so try your best to stay inside during those times.
Mold and Mildew
Yes, mold and mildew can be a problem year-round, but in the Fall they love to grow on damp fallen leaves, compost piles, and damp areas of your house (basements, bathrooms, and kitchens). In the south, the temperature and humidity levels arejust right for mold growth in early-to-mid Fall (great). When eyes are exposed to mold spores, many people experience allergic conjunctivitis, an eye inflammation causing red, itchy, and watery eyes. To avoid this, rake your leaves and clean your gutters (or just hire the kid down the street to do it), resist jumping in large piles of leaves “for the ‘gram,” wear protective masks while doing yard work, clean your compost bins, and use a humidifier in the house to keep the air between 35 and 50% humidity. Clean your bathrooms with vinegar or other anti-mildew agents regularly to avoid mildew buildup.
A lot of people really enjoy the smell of leaves burning on a crisp, Autumn day, but getting a ton of smoke in your eyes is one of the worst feelings ever. Fall is the season of bonfires, but keep in mind that smoke in the air can cause stinging, burning, redness and tearing in your eyes. Yes, smoke is technically more of an “irritant” than an allergy, but tiny particles in the smoke will often cause allergic reactions in your eyes as well.If you know you’re about to be around a large amount of smoke, there are several precautions you can take. Keep a cold compress handy, use artificial tears, wear glasses or goggles, stay inside as much as you can, and improve your indoor air with an air filter. If you have an allergy, ask your eye doctor about allergy drops.
Dust exists all year, but dust mites hit people the hardest in the Fall. Why? Turning on our heating systems forces out all the dust and residue from the mites into the air of our homes. Dust mites are often found in bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture because they literally feed off of dead human skin (I wish I was kidding right now). Symptoms of dust mites are very similar to symptoms produced by ragweed, such as itchy, red, watery eyes, post-nasal drip, sneezing, stuffy nose, etc. Dust mites are also the reason you wake up with a sore throat after sleeping all night with the fan on (so don’t worry, it’s probably not Covid-19). To control the presence of dust mites, wash your carpets and bedding regularly, vacuum your floors, and use wet mops or rags to clean dusty surfaces. As far as treatment, antihistamine pills or eye drops are usually your best bet.
I love myself some Fall decor, but you might want to think twice before hauling an entire bale of straw onto your front porch or hanging a dusty wreath that’s been in storage all year. Fall decorations are largely plant based, so keep that in mind when your eyes start itching after a visit to the pumpkin patch. Pretty pumpkins will eventually ripen, soften, and bring some nasty growth to your front porch. Watch out for seasonal flower arrangements as well; even fresh picks placed in water will eventually get moldy.
Are you or your family at higher risk for Fall allergies? Approximately 75% of patients who suffer with springtime allergies will be affected in the Fall, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. For more information on seasonal allergies, clickhere. If you’re seeking relief and would like to make an appointment,book one today!