What Triggers Your Fall Allergies?

How to Dodge Your Fall Allergies

For Dani Dumitriu, autumn’s arrival used to be a time of relief. The heat and humidity would fall off — and so would her summer allergies. September meant that she could finally breathe easily, get outside, eat lunch in the park, and hike the trails around her home.

Then 2 years ago, Dumitriu noticed a change. As August came to a close and she ventured outdoors, her eyes would start to itch and her nose would run. She was tired all day, no matter how much sleep she got. “I suddenly had to restrict myself,” she says. “Part of me was really sad that I couldn’t enjoy the fall.”

Allergy Tips: Your Outdoor Exercise Checklist

If you have allergies, you might feel like outdoor exercise detracts from your health more than it adds. Exercise is supposed to make you feel good. But if a quick jog or a bike ride leaves you wheezing, sneezing, and feeling miserable for hours afterwards, how healthy can it be?
But all of us — allergic or not — need to exercise regularly for our overall health. And the good news is that you can, even if you’re exposed to outdoor allergens.
“People with allergies and asthma should be able to…

Read the Allergy Tips: Your Outdoor Exercise Checklist article

Dumitriu’s frustration drove her to see an allergist, who confirmed that she had developed an allergic reaction to ragweed. Even though she, like most people, had always associated spring and summer with allergy season, she soon discovered that autumn has a cornucopia of its own pollens, plants, and seasonal food allergens.

Ragweed Rules Autumn

Dumitriu’s reaction to ragweed is probably the most common fall allergy. Ragweed begins to pollenate in mid-August and lasts until the first hard freeze. Each plant can produce and release up to a billion grains of pollen into the air. This can cause a hay fever with symptoms like:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy throat 
  • Congestion
  • Itchy or swollen eyes
  • Hives 

Allergist Beth Corn, MD, says there are little everyday things you can do to combat ragweed and other airborne triggers. For instance, close the windows and use your air conditioning. If you need to work out or do some other outdoor activity, do it early in the morning or late in the evening when pollen counts aren’t as high. Then shower and change clothes after you come inside.

Over-the-counter medications also help, like nasal steroid sprays and antihistamine pills or eyedrops. But if symptoms are severe, you might try following Dumitriu’s lead and seeing an allergist. “Even with these meds, some patients might not improve,” Corn says. “Those patients are excellent candidates for allergy shots.”

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