Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, and it has come and gone meaning fall is not too far away now. However, those with fall allergies may already be feeling the pollen as our counts have steadily risen over the last few weeks.
What allergens are high in the fall?
Weed pollen and mold spore counts are typically higher in the fall. Specifically, Ragweed is the most common fall allergen in the region and is well known to cause seasonal allergic rhinitis or hayfever. Mold counts rise due to the outdoor mold growth on logs and fallen leaves, but can also cause symptoms year round due to damp indoor areas like a bathroom or basement.
See related: Prepare for Ragweed Allergy Season
How long do fall allergies last?
When is allergy season over? The fall allergy season in Kentuckiana will last through October. Why? Ragweed pollen begins blooming in late July lasts through the first frost of the season which is typically in October in the Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio region.
An allergic response will depend on your exposure to the allergen, which is why we recommend avoidance tips to help manage exposure. However, depending on what you are allergic to, your symptoms may last longer.
What are the symptoms of severe allergies?
Those with allergies often experience these allergy symptoms:
- Sinus Congestion
- Runny Nose
- Post-Nasal Drip
- Itchy or Watery Eyes
These symptoms are also very similar to that of a cold, so we have many patients ask, what’s the difference between a cold and allergies?
Dr. Warrier talked to Lexington’s ABC 36 about the difference between a cold and allergies. “Many of the symptoms are the same; you have the nasal symptoms, the congestion, watery drainage, the sneezing, so many of those symptoms overlap. However, with a cold, that is caused by viruses whereas with allergies the reason you have those symptoms is your body’s immune system is responding to the pollen, mold, or dander that you are breathing in.”
So while the symptoms are similar, the cause of the symptoms are different and so is how you manage it. Cold symptoms can last for a few days to a few weeks. Allergies symptoms last a lot longer and are recurrent, so many notice their symptoms come back during the same time of year.
What helps relieve allergies?
An allergist can identify what allergens are bothersome with testing. Once diagnosed, our doctors can prescribe medications to manage symptoms or may recommend allergy shots to address the cause of the allergies. Avoidance mesures can help reduce exposure to allergens and relieve allergy symptoms. However, depending on what patients are allergic to, it may not be possible to avoid their trigger. We recommend the following tips during the fall season:
- Take medication as prescribed. Some medications may be recommended to start taking before the pollen season begins.
- Check pollen levels to know when counts are high and help prepare for the day.
- Keep windows and doors shut in the home and in the car during the allergy season. This limits the amount of pollen that enters into the living areas.
- Wear a N95 filter mask when doing yard work like mowing the lawn and raking leaves.
- Change clothes and shower after doing yard work. Showering at night helps to remove any pollen and other allergens from the skin and hair.
See related: Why see a Board-Certified Allergist?
How do you treat fall allergies?
When a patient comes in with allergy symptoms, the first thing we recommend is allergy testing. Why? It is important to know what triggers a patients allergies for our doctors to provide the best treatment plan. Allergy skin testing is the gold standard and most reliable form of testing.
During an allergy skin testing appointment, our staff will collect a medical history, and then administer the skin test. Skin testing is a simple series of tiny scratches made on the back. The scratches are conducted with a small instrument similar to a plastic toothpick, which contains trace amounts of a single allergen, such as mold, pollen, dust mite, and/or animal dander. When the results are positive, a small reaction on the skin occurs, usually within 20 minutes. A reaction typically indicates that patients are allergic to that specific trigger.
If inconclusive, additional testing on the arm may be done to help identify allergens when skin test results. Using the medical history and the results from the tests our board-certified allergist can determine allergens are triggers for patients. Depending on the results of the testing, our providers will determine the best way to treat your allergy symptoms.
We treat allergies in a three-tiered approach.
Avoidance of allergens, medication to treat symptoms, and immunotherapy to suppress the underlying allergy response for long-term relief.
- Avoidance – Allergies to food and latex must be avoided to prevent allergic reactions. Since it is almost impossible to avoid pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander, they must be controlled through environmental control methods. Taking precautions such as changing clothes and showering after being outside, washing pets regularly, and replacing furnace filters are all small things patients can do to keep allergen levels low in their home.
- Medication – Our allergists may prescribe medication, such as antihistamines or nasal steroids, to help to alleviate fall symptoms. Those with mild allergies may be able to control their symptoms with medication during the season and not need medication at all for the rest of the year.
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, may be recommended. Research has clearly shown the effectiveness of allergy shots for both allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma. Allergy shots are a natural approach that increases the body’s tolerance to the harmful allergen. By injecting gradually increasing doses of the offending allergen extract, the immune system builds up a tolerance to that allergen and reduces the reaction to the bothersome allergen. The shot schedule is individualized by the board-certified allergy and asthma specialist – these specialists are the only ones who receive extensive training in this procedure.
Those who find themselves struggling throughout the season should consider scheduling an appointment with our board-certified allergists. We can help get your allergies back under control and start you on a path for more permanent relief.