Allergies: Identifying and Treating Allergies

Allergies: Identifying and Treating Fall Allergies

What causes fall allergies?

Fall allergy triggers are different from spring and summer allergies, but they can cause similar symptoms. Dirt-based molds such as ragweed are the main triggers of fall outdoor allergies. Ragweed starts releasing pollen in August, but can last into September and October and can travel great distances. It’s the predominant cause of outdoor fall allergy symptoms. Other outdoor molds found in soil, compost piles, and leaves that cover the ground in the fall months can be a source of fall allergies. Spores from mold are airborne allergens and easily inhaled in the lungs. Indoor allergens, such as mold, dust mites, and pets, can also trigger symptoms.

How do I know if I have fall allergies?

Many of the symptoms are the same as you might experience in the spring. Congestion, sneezing, post-nasal drip, and watery eyes are the most common signs of fall allergies. Sometimes it‘s hard to know whether you’re suffering from allergies or a cold because the symptoms are similar. If you experience these symptoms every spring and fall, you most likely have seasonal allergies or hay fever.

How are fall allergies diagnosed?

Your primary care provider (PCP) can help you diagnose what is causing your allergy symptoms. Your PCP will ask you about your medical history and symptoms and may recommend a skin test. A tiny amount of the allergen is placed on your skin and then your PCP will prick or scratch the skin underneath. If you are allergic, you will see a small, raised bump that itches. A skin test may need to be performed by a provider who specializes in allergies. A blood test may also be used to diagnose allergies.

What kinds of medical treatments exist for fall allergies?

Allergy symptoms can often be controlled with medications. Antihistamines are usually the first line of defense. Along with an antihistamine, your PCP may recommend oral or nasal decongestants. In addition, there are also medications called “leukotriene receptor antagonist” that worked differently than antihistamines. These are also effective in the treatment of allergies. If something stronger is needed, a steroid nasal spray may be recommended to decrease inflammation. These sprays reduce secretion and nasal swelling. The combination of antihistamines and nasal steroids is generally a very effective way to treat allergies. If these methods are ineffective, allergy shots may be recommended to help reduce symptoms.

Are there things that I can do to minimize the effects of allergies?

There are many things you can do to minimize the effects of fall allergies. You should take extra caution on windy days and in the morning when pollen is released. Consider using a face mask when you are outside, especially when you are working in the garden or raking leaves. Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed when pollen is at its peak. Wash your hands and face or shower after exposure to pollen. Indoors, clean your heating vents and change the filter before you turn on the heat for the first time. Use a HEPA air purifier and a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove pollen, mold, and other particles from the air. Bathe pets regularly and keep them out of your bedroom. Vacuum and dust frequently, and use dust mite protective covers on pillows and mattresses.

By Christopher Laurent, FNP-BC

Christopher Laurent is a board certified family nurse practitioner located in Whitefield Physicians Office. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.