Health Matters | "Leave" Allergies Behind this Fall

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"Leave" Allergies Behind this Fall

As the weather starts to cool off and crisp, autumn breezes rustle the colorful leaves, you’re probably eager to spend more time outdoors enjoying nature. Your time outside is likely to increase between corn mazes, pumpkin patches, football games, apple picking, and numerous other outdoor fall activities, and with this fresh air comes exposure to allergens. Although many people think of spring allergens as the major sinus offenders, you may be surprised to learn that fall allergens—namely ragweed pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander—can be just as pervasive. However, by identifying these allergens and learning how to treat them, the sniffles and itchy eyes don’t have to dampen your fall festivities.

Ragweed—a tall, yellow, flowering plant—pollinates late summer and into fall, and usually reaches peak levels around mid-September. Ragweed pollen can spread great distances on the wind, so it is not unusual for allergy sufferers to experience reactions to plants hundreds of miles away. Common ragweed allergy symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, and headaches. To minimize discomfort, use a HEPA filter in your home’s AC system to remove pollen and other allergy-inducing particles from the air, keep house and car windows closed during peak pollen days and times, and dry your clothes in a machine dryer instead of using an outdoor clothesline.

Minimize pollen tracked in the house by leaving your shoes outside and taking a shower after spending time outdoors. Also, since certain foods have a cross-reactivity with specific pollens, cutting them out of your diet—especially during peak allergy season—may lesson your allergy symptoms. If you have a ragweed allergy, try avoiding melons, cantaloupe, cucumber, bananas, and zucchini as these may aggravate your allergies.

Another common fall allergy is mold. While allergy sufferers can experience mold reactions year-round, fungus spore activity increases from July into the fall. Year-round mold can often be found in damp areas of the home, such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and basements. Like reactions to pollen, mold spore allergies manifest themselves through sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion, and dry, scaly skin.

Stepping up the moisture control in your home can help decrease mold, so make sure to run exhaust fans in the bathrooms, mop up any standing water, and invest in a dehumidifier. Throughout your home, check for leaks, safely clean up any visible mold, and increase air flow. Outdoor mold can also be an issue when raking piles of leaves, since mold likes to grow in damp places. If raking aggravates your allergies, wear a filter mask while finishing up your yard work.

Indoor Allergens
In addition to mold and ragweed allergies, you may find your allergies acting up from indoor allergens, specifically to pets and dust mites. With pet allergies, the surest but most difficult way to cure the symptoms is to remove the pet. For many, this isn’t an option, and regular cleaning of the house and the furry family member can help reduce the offending pet dander. Also, if you cannot remove the pet from the home, you should restrict the pet’s access to the bedroom to prevent the spread of allergens to clothes and bedding. Washing your hands after petting your four-legged friends can also prevent allergens from spreading to your face and clothes. In addition to pet dander, dust mites can cause an allergic reaction. Regular dusting and cleaning with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner can help alleviate both pet and dust allergies.

Fall Allergy Prevention
Despite the variety of fall allergens, a few techniques and supplements can boost your body’s ability to handle all allergies, indoor and outdoor alike. Allergy pills and eye drops can be found over-the-counter to take the edge off your symptoms, but it’s recommended that you start your allergy medication regimen before the pollen season begins. On a more natural note, drinking plenty of water; eating healthy fruits and vegetables; and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, dairy, wheat, sugar, food coloring, red meat, and peanuts can be beneficial. Natural supplements such as Vitamin C and probiotics, along with a balanced amount of rest and exercise, can also aid your body in fighting allergies. In your bedroom, cover your pillows and mattress in anti-allergy cases and wash your bedding frequently in hot water.

With a few lifestyle adjustments and a little extra cleaning, you’ll be on your way to an allergy-free fall!

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