If you think you’re safe from allergies just because the leaves are changing colors and every coffee shop in town is pushing pumpkin spice, guess again. Spring and summer allergies might get more attention, but people in Boise are just as likely to experience symptoms during the autumn months.
Autumn Allergy Triggers
While most flowers and trees release pollen during the spring and early summer, ragweed and other weed pollens are abundant from about mid-August until the first frost of the season, sometimes well into October.
How do allergens affect the body?
Allergies are the body’s response to a perceived threat. When the immune system encounters a substance it believes is harmful, it mounts a defense by released chemicals called histamines into the bloodstream. These cause irritation of the eyes and nose and produce symptoms that include sneezing; itchy, watery eyes, nose and throat; and a runny or stuffy nose. People with asthma have it even worse; allergies can cause inflammation in their airways that leads to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.
How can you protect yourself against fall allergies>
The best way to avoid the unpleasant symptoms associated with allergies is to take steps to protect yourself. Your Boise ENT doctor recommends the following strategies to lessen the effect of fall allergies.
- Learn which fall allergens are common in your area. Fall allergies are often the result of ragweed, which produces extensive pollen this time of year. These particles can be carried hundreds of miles on windy days, affecting even those who don’t have ragweed growing nearby. Other common fall allergens include mold, which grows abundantly in moist, decaying leaves (if you’re sensitive, avoid raking and jumping into a pile of leaves, as tempting as that is). Dust mites are a nuisance year-round and are often more noticeable in the fall, when you spend more time indoors. Turning up the heat and using a humidifier to moisten dry helps these microscopic organisms flourish.
- Make sure your symptoms are allergy-related. Allergy symptoms are similar to those produced by the common cold and other viruses, which are more likely to occur this time of year. The easiest way to differentiate allergies from colds and respiratory functions? Itchy, watery eyes, nose or throat. These are telltale allergy symptoms that rarely occur with other conditions. Your Boise allergist can give you an allergy test to determine for certain whether allergies are causing your discomfort.
- Check pollen and mold counts before going outside. Early mornings and windy days are worst for allergy sufferers, so keep an eye on the weather and try to plan your outdoor activities for later in the day. Get in the habit of checking pollen counts before heading outside; this information can be found in the newspaper, online or through smartphone apps.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses. Pollen and mold spores can get into your hair and eyes, causing distress. Wear a hat whenever you’re planning on spending time outdoors, and if you don’t already wear eyeglasses, put on a pair of sunglasses for protection. Be sure you wash them frequently.
- Keep windows and doors closed. It’s tempting to open windows and doors when enjoying a fine stretch of Indian Summer weather, but doing so is basically inviting allergens into your home. Run the air conditioner instead (the same holds true when driving). A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system will keep your home free of microscopic substances and should significantly cut down on your symptoms.
- Change your clothes when you get home. Pollen, mold spores and other allergens are like hitchhikers, happy to catch a ride on your clothing. Once you get home, change out of your clothing into something you only plan to wear indoors. Taking a shower will help wash away allergens that cling to the skin and hair.
- Routinely clean your home. Dusting, mopping and running the vacuum are preventative ways to reduce allergen buildup in your home. You don’t have to do an entire top-to-bottom cleaning every week, but pay attention to areas you spend a lot of time in, such as the bedroom and living room. Do wash your linens and vacuum often—not just carpets but upholstered furniture, as well. Allergy-proof covers can be purchased for your sheets and bedding.
- Use a dehumidifier. Both dust mites and mold spores are dependent upon moisture; to reduce the likelihood of either becoming a problem, try to keep the humidity in your home below 50 percent. A dehumidifier in the bedroom and/or living room is a great way to keep the air in your home drier.
- Keep allergy medications on hand. If these other tricks don’t reduce allergy and asthma symptoms, drugs may help. Keep a ready supply of antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays in the medicine cabinet for those times when allergy symptoms are bothersome.
Don’t despair; before you know it, winter will be here—and there’s less chance of experiencing allergies during the coldest months of the year. In the meantime, your Boise ear, nose and throat specialist can help give you more tips on controlling allergies.
Related Ear, Nose & Throat Posts:
- Summertime Hearing Protection
- Inherited Types of Hearing Loss
- Thyroid Disease Causes More Symptoms Than You Might Think