Autumn, especially early autumn, is a favorite time of year for many of us in many parts of the country. As we go deeper into October, we marvel at the colorful turning of the leaves, rake leaves into piles and jump into them, roam through pumpkin patches in search of the future jack-o'-lantern(s) to adorn the front porch, savor cooler temps at night that make for easier sleeping, and join friends for tailgaters or TV-watching parties with football in full swing. A wonderful time of year, huh? It's not so wonderful when it can bring on sneezes, sniffles, congested nasal passages and itchy, watery eyes. Oh, no, not again! Welcome to fall allergies, which can be every bit as pesky and annoying as traditional spring allergies. Yes, millions of Americans experience the double whammy of allergies in the spring and another dose of them in the fall, which doesn't seem fair. Hay fever? No thanks. Apparently, once a year isn't suffering enough. What did we do to deserve this? Well, nothing, really, other than breathe in pollen from ragweed. According to webmd.com, ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger during the fall months. About 75 percent of allergy sufferers affected by spring plants are also victimized in the fall by ragweed and other sneeze-inducing sources of fall allergies such as mold (which can grow on wet, unraked leaves). "The most common fall allergy is ragweed, which pollinates from August 15 to early October through most of the United States and parts of Europe," Dr. Jay M. Portnoy, chief of allergy, asthma and immunology at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, Mich., is quoted as saying at livescience.com. "It causes hay fever, with symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy nose and itchy, watery eyes." What gets tricky is differentiating fall allergies from a cold, with cold and flu season often kicking in well before the actual start of winter in late December. According to weather.com, "With these synonymous cold-weather sniffles going on, it can be hard to tell which one is ailing you — particularly if you have never had allergies before."
7 Ways to Combat Fall AllergiesEither way, if you are unsure if it's allergies or a cold, it might be worth a visit to your primary-care physician to get properly diagnosed. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your exposure to fall allergens, but be prepared: it takes work, and it can definitely put a crimp in your outdoors plans:
- Bathe furry pets frequently. Think cats and dogs, for starters.
- Wash clothes, linens, and curtains often, but don't dry them outdoors.
- Rake up leaves as soon as possible and clean out your yucky gutters.
- Change out filters throughout the house, and cover your mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers.
- Wear a painter's mask if outdoors for an extended period of time, especially if raking leaves, so as not to breathe in mold spores.
- Stay indoors with doors and windows closed during the peak hours of pollen (late morning/mid-day). We know, bummer.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your home at between 35 to 50 percent humidity.