While fall can be an exciting time of year to be in Central Texas (with back-to-school activities and Friday night football games), many people encounter severe allergies that make being outdoors an unpleasant experience. For the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, fall can mean sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion. Beginning in mid-August and lasting all the way through October, the fall allergy season is now in full effect.
Ragweed, the heaviest pollinator in Central Texas during autumn, is one of the most common fall allergy triggers. Some studies have shown that up to 15 percent of Americans are allergic to ragweed. A single ragweed plant can release more than one billion grains of pollen in a season. And, while staying indoors can help, pollen can travel great distances — as much as 200 miles away from the plant — so it can be tricky to avoid ragweed pollen all together. Ragweed allergy symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy nose and itchy, watery eyes.
Ragweed isn’t the only fall allergen about to peak. Cedar Elm trees and at least 10 other types of weeds also pollinate during the fall season, with weed pollen counts generally peaking around the beginning of October.
And then there are the outdoor mold spores that are also released during this time of year. People tend to think of indoor mold when it comes to mold allergies, but we may actually have more exposure to outdoor mold. In the autumn, mold spores can thrive in fallen leaves and other decaying vegetation. As mold counts climb higher, they become increasingly irritating to people with allergies. High mold counts also contribute to breathing problems in patients with asthma.
Can you avoid allergies?
Without treatment, the best chance you might have for decreasing allergy symptoms is to avoid exposure. This may mean staying indoors with the windows closed, as well as avoiding outdoor activities such as sports, camping, and cookouts. Routine yard work can also stir pollen and mold spores into the air. If you’re raking leaves, mowing the lawn, working with mulch, or trimming the shrubs, you may want to wear a mask, such as a NIOSH N95 (available at Amazon.com and your local hardware store).
Pollen counts are at their highest from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. so staying indoors during those times can help reduce your exposure to the allergens and reduce your allergy symptoms. Changing your clothes after being outside can also help, as well as showering to remove allergens from your hair and skin.
Unfortunately, attempting to escape allergies in the fall by remaining indoors may not completely do the trick. Low humidity inside homes can also be a major trigger of nasal and lung irritation. Low humidity dries out the mucous membranes and leads to inflammation, while cool dry air causes the lining of the nose to become swollen, resulting in a stuffy and runny nose. Not to mention, it’s impossible to stay indoors all the time; which is why there are other ways to defend against fall allergens. Prescription-strength antihistamines and nasal steroids are now available over the counter. Antihistamines help reduce symptoms by blocking the histamines, or inflammatory chemicals, that cause them. Decongestants can also help reduce stuffiness. And, eye drops can be added to your regimen to decrease itchy, watery eyes.
When all your avoidance efforts and the over-the-counter medications don’t do the trick, it’s time to call your allergist. A board-certified allergist can prescribe more intensive remedies to bring your current symptoms under better control and develop a preventative plan using allergen immunotherapy that can help you avoid the misery of seasonal allergies in the future. Rather than reducing symptoms after they have started, allergen immunotherapy helps your body develop resistance to the pollen and mold particles so that your symptoms are significantly reduced and much less troublesome. Both allergy injections and oral allergy drops now offer a convenient, safe and effective option for patients who want better control of their symptoms. An individualized extract prescription is prepared for each patient based on the results of allergy testing. Patients then take either injections in the clinic or allergy drops at home. The best choice of treatment and the specifics of the immunotherapy prescription will vary depending on the needs of the patient.
The only way to truly tell what’s affecting you is through specific allergy testing. The doctors at Certified Allergy and Asthma of San Antonio offer a full range of allergy diagnostic testing to evaluate and manage allergies and asthma. Certified Allergy has a 3-decade tradition of providing quality allergy care in San Antonio. All Certified Allergy physicians are fellowship-trained and are the first — and most experienced — board-certified allergists in San Antonio to offer the more effective, high dose European protocol allergy drops. If you’d like to bring your fall allergies under better control, come discover a clinic that will offer you personalized service and help you enjoy a comfortable fall season.