Q: Now that fall has started, I'm worried about my allergies. Should I be prepared for another bad allergy season?
A: Pollen misery is still a big factor for those millions of seasonal sufferers. In fact, 75 percent of those who suffer from springtime allergies are again affected by the number one fall allergy bad guy— that's right, ragweed pollen! The bad news is that it won't let up until first frost.
Another fall allergy culprit is the build-up of indoor molds, as well as outdoor mold spores.
Here are some simple and practical allergy tips to help you start fighting fall allergies:
Be a star
Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens and molds from entering your eyes and lids that will cause redness and watery eyes.
Wear a hat
Go for a wide-brimmed hat and avoid hair gels that turn your ‘do into a pollen magnet!
Stay away from the line
Even during mid-fall, avoid line drying clothing— particularly bed linens— on a high-pollen day outdoors.
Know your pollen count
Pollen levels are highest on windy, dry and sunny days. Check your local weather reports to identify high allergy days.
Get your seasonal allergies confirmed
Simple in-office allergy tests can pinpoint your problem.
Start early with allergy treatment
Many medications will work better (nasal antihistamines/steroids, oral antihistamines and eye drops) if you start them even before symptoms begin.
Allergy injections (shots) and/or sublingual allergy treatment are the only immune-based therapy we have that will help to reduce allergy symptoms. The goal is to provide excellent long-term relief, in a large majority of allergy sufferers.
Do the wash cycle or wash wisely
Shampoo and shower nightly to rinse the pollens from your skin and hair. Change your clothing before entering your bedroom to prevent pollens from being brought into your bedroom.
Gently irrigate your eyelids (while your eyes are closed) with a mild, tear-free “baby” shampoo to remove excess allergens and pollutants that may have accumulated. Check with your eye care provider first, especially if you wear contact lenses or have other eye problems) to learn whether anti-allergy eye and/or moisturizing drops may also be helpful.
Molds are here to stay, especially during fall
The sites in the home that are mostly likely to harbor molds include the bathroom— especially on the tile and under the sink— basement areas and damp carpeting. If you smell mildew you've likely got a mold problem. About 15 percent of us are "sensitive to molds".
Know your indoor moisture levels
Monitor your indoor humidity level (amount of moisture in the air) and attempt to keep it less than 45 to 50 percent to avoid triggering mold and dust mite allergies. A low-cost hygrometer (less than $10) can help ensure optimal indoor humidity levels in your home. Too many indoor houseplants can also add to increased indoor humidity as a result of added moisture and molds. In some cases a room de-humidifier may help wring the extra unwanted moisture out a room, as may occur in a basement.
Watch what you eat
It’s not just what’s in the air that can wreak havoc on your seasonal allergies. What you eat can have an impact as well. Watch out for fresh foods including melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, banana, chamomile tea, and zucchini. Up to one-third of ragweed allergy sufferers can actually experience worsening of their symptoms (itchiness of the mouth, tongue, and throat) with these foods. Although echinacea may be used to fight colds and viruses, it can worsen your seasonal allergies if you are sensitive to ragweed and weeds, as a result of a cross-reaction.
Minimize indoor allergens
As you spend more time indoors this fall, you may experience a worsening of your allergies. Exposure to indoor allergens, particularly pets, mold spores, and dust mites can ratchet up your suffering. Ten to 15 percent of allergic individuals are allergic to their pets and may develop respiratory symptoms during the early to mid-Fall as a result of increased indoor exposure. Have a plan in place, such as HEPA type vacuum and/or HEPA central and/or room air purification.
Wash it out
It’s important to wash any fall or winter clothing that has been in storage where dust and molds may have accumulated on them. Wash them thoroughly before wearing them. Keep off-season pillows, blankets, and even kid’s “plush” toys in an enclosed container to prevent additional indoor allergens from accumulating.
Be proactive, have an allergist-directed fall allergy action plan and be a survivor!
Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY. Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center, and faculty at Cornell University Medical College. Follow him on Twitter.