As we enter into the fall season, we expect cooler temperatures and changing leaves, but something that is often overlooked is the onset of fall allergies. In the Southeast, fall allergies usually begin in the middle of August and subside in November.
According to Dr. John D. Harwick, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and medical director of the UF Health Outpatient ENT Clinics, the most common allergy present in the fall is ragweed. Other common allergies that arise in the fall are lamb’s quarters, pigweed, sheep sorrel, sagebrush, careless weed and dog fennel.
It’s in the air … and possibly on your table
The pollen from the weeds gets distributed through the air up to 400 miles, and the pollen count is at its highest on dry, windy days. But, on wet days the count is considerably lower. You can check pollen counts online to learn about your local pollen levels.
Something not many individuals know is that there’s a cross reaction between bananas, melons, zucchini, chamomile and fall weed allergies.
“People with these food allergies may also suffer fall inhalant allergies,” Harwick explained. “Also, people with pet dander, dust mite and mold allergies are more likely to suffer from fall allergies.”
Allergies can sometimes become evident when children return to school, where they are sitting in a classroom or eating lunch in a cafeteria.
“If a child has dust or mold allergies, exposure to these in the school may trigger fall inhalant allergies,” Harwick said.
On your way to feeling better
“Pollen enters the body through the nose and lungs resulting in the release of histamine and other inflammatory agents,” Harwick explained.
He shared that some common symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, watery nasal drainage, nasal congestion, headaches, fatigue and an inability to concentrate.
There are several steps you can take to treat the symptoms of your allergies. One suggestion by Harwick is to rinse the nose with saline solution to remove pollen from the nose.
In addition, he advised using over-the- counter non-sedating antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra. Harwick also recommended over-the- counter steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase or Nasacort AQ.
Harwick suggests avoiding going outside when there is a high pollen count, which is usually common mid-day. He also recommends showering and changing your clothes when you return home, keeping your car and house windows closed and using your air conditioning while inside your car or house. Using HEPA filters may also help.
If you know fall allergies bother you each year, Harwick shared that starting pre-treatment with an antihistamine or nasal steroid spray a couple of weeks before the fall allergy season begins and monitoring pollen counts can be beneficial as the season progresses.
If all these options don’t help clear up the allergies, look into seeing an otolaryngology (ENT) allergist for your specific care.
Please consult your doctor for specific care and treatment for you or your children.