With the cooler weather and colorful foliage, fall is upon us. While many people look forward to sipping apple cider and eating pumpkin pie, others are plagued by fall allergies that make their life miserable. If you suffer from itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose, there are treatments available to help you cope with seasonal allergies.
Common fall allergens
- Ragweed is a weed that lives only one season but can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains. No wonder your eyes are itchy! Around mid-August, the flowers on the plant mature and release pollen into the air. Ragweed is very common, especially in rural areas, and is found in fields, near streams, on roadways — just about everywhere.
- Mold and mildew are found both indoors and outdoors. They produce spores that are transported through the air — mid-summer to mid-fall is usually the peak time for this allergen. Those colorful leaves that fall from the trees? Well, that's a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Damp areas like a leaf pile or a basement corner are prime spots for these fungi.
- Dust mites are tiny, microscopic insects that are found indoors and known to cause allergy symptoms. They can be especially prevalent in the fall time when it starts to get chilly, and it's time to turn on the heat. These little creatures make their home in air filters and furnaces, so when the heat gets turned on, they can circulate throughout your house.
To help you in your fight against allergy symptoms, here are some tips and treatment options to help ease your suffering.
- Just like the Boy Scouts, when you're an allergy sufferer, you need to be prepared. This means a variety of different things like reducing breeding grounds for mold — scrubbing visible mold and reducing moisture in basements or bathrooms. Run the fan before, during, and after showers to prevent buildup.
- Keep an eye on the weather report for high pollen counts. Plan to stay indoors and keep windows closed when there is an elevated count.
- Before turning on your heat, replace air filters and clean vents to avoid spreading dust mites or other allergens throughout your house.
- Take your shoes off when entering the house. Change outdoor work clothes as soon as your chores are finished.
- Rake leaves and clean gutters. Wear a mask if particularly bothersome.
- Run an air purifier or HEPA filter in your house. Plus, it's always a good idea to keep a dehumidifier in basement areas
Medications can be a live saver when you're feeling down-and-out due to allergies. There are plenty of over the counter options available but with so many to choose from, here's what you need to know.
- Get in front of symptoms — If you're an allergy sufferer then starting meds before symptoms show up is your best bet. Fall allergies are prone to start around mid-August, so starting medication a few weeks before that will keep you ahead of the game. Controlling the symptoms before they start is key to making this time of year more bearable.
- Antihistamines — These over the counter drugs treat allergic rhinitis (irritation and swelling of the mucus membrane). They are available in many forms, including nasal sprays, tablets, and liquids.
- Nasal corticosteroids — This medication is typically in the form of a nasal spray and is used 1-2 daily for allergy relief.
- Decongestants — These drugs are generally used alongside antihistamines in order to get the best results. However, overuse of a decongestant can have the opposite effect you're looking for and cause congestion to worsen. With that said, they're only recommended for short-term use.
The rule of thumb is to start with an antihistamine to see if that relieves any of your symptoms. If it isn't getting the job done, nasal corticosteroids are the next option and generally more effective than antihistamines. The drawback is that nasal corticosteroids take up to 1-2 weeks to take effect, so it's important to get on top of the symptoms and start taking it before you're in distress.
Consulting a Doctor
While many people will typically try out over-the-counter medicine, if symptoms persist or you're unsure of which medications are most effective, it's time to consult a qualified doctor. You might be surprised to learn that visiting an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist can help with your allergy issues. But many of the conditions treated by these doctors are actually the result of allergies.
ENTs, like those at C/V ENT Surgical Group, can do allergy testing (food, environmental, etc.) to determine what you're actually allergic to and plan the best care management. Immunotherapy> is another course of action and is a preventative treatment. You may have heard it called by another name — allergy shots, and it's basically injecting your body with small doses of an allergen, making you less sensitive to it. This form of therapy is also known to reduce nasal inflammation, a common occurrence with allergies.
Working with an ENT will provide overall guidance on how to proceed with living and coping with allergies. Not only will your doctor complete a thorough history but analyze the results and come up with a treatment plan to avoid certain allergens. If necessary, medications will be prescribed and will be reviewed and tweaked as needed.
Consulting a doctor will not only allow you to know what you're allergic to but also how to manage it. Many people need expert advice when it comes to which drugs to take, how much, and any concerning interactions. ENTs will be able to provide you with a care management plan that can include medications, follow-up plans, and other forms of therapy if necessary.
If you're an allergy sufferer and have tried over the counter medications to no avail, schedule an appointment with the specialists at C/V ENT Surgical Group. They are experts at determining the underlying causes of pesky allergies and devising a solid and effective treatment plan. If you are within the Great Los Angeles area, contact us for a consultation.