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How to minimize fall allergies

The crisp, cool air of fall usually entices people to spend more time outdoors. But these prolonged hours outside may be accompanied by itchy, watery eyes, stuffiness and a scratchy throat — all due to fall allergies.

Fall allergies don’t have to get in the way of your daily life. There are some preventative measures you can take to stay ahead of the chronic sniffles.

“Fall allergies encompass two basic categories: seasonal and perennial allergen-induced symptoms,” says Steven Harris, M.D., a pulmonologist at Piedmont. “Fall seasonal allergens include weeds, such as ragweed, and grass pollens. Perennial allergens, such as mold, are often present year-round, and can be more abundant in the cool, damp weather. Susceptible individuals will often develop stuffy nose, watery eyes, and post-nasal drip, which may also further aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD.”

Tips to avoid allergy symptoms during the fall season:

1. Take an antihistamine at the first sign of symptoms. These over-the-counter products can be used at the first sign of the sniffles, especially if you are prone to allergies. They are effective at relieving most people’s symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine and are safe for long-term use.

2. Monitor the pollen count. Keep an eye on the pollen and mold counts, and plan outdoor activities accordingly. Pollens surge on dry, windy days and drop quickly on wet, rainy and windless days.

3. Change out air filters. The fall is a good time for seasonal maintenance like changing and cleaning out AC and furnace air filters.

4. Check indoor humidity levels. Mold spores increase during early fall months, so it is important to check areas of your home for mold or mildew growth. Keep your indoor humidity level at 50 percent or less.

5. Eliminate chemicals. Avoid the temptation to indulge in indoor air irritants, such as scented holiday candles, potpourri and air-fresheners. Even cleaning products have added chemicals that can aggravate allergies.

6. Shower every night. When you shower at the end of the day, you remove allergens from your skin and hair, which means you won’t breathe them in while you’re sleeping.

7. Consider allergy testing. See your doctor for allergy testing if over-the-counter medications don't cut it, especially if your symptoms don’t go away after 10 days.

8. Ask about allergy shots. If you are looking for a permanent solution, allergy shots may be the answer. By injecting tiny amounts of an allergen over a period of time, allergy shots help your body build up a tolerance to that allergen.

“Which particular allergens are responsible for a patient’s symptoms may sometimes be difficult to determine,” says Dr. Harris. “Allergy testing is often necessary to both identify the underlying cause and offer proper treatment of allergic meditated disease. Although over-the-counter medications and other allergy remedies may offer some temporary relief, individuals who suffer recurrent or worsening symptoms are encouraged to seek the advice of their physician or allergy specialist to determine a proper treatment plan.” 

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