Allergy sufferers know that each season brings its own host of irritants, with fall being no exception. When cooler months are approaching, knowing your individual sensitivities can help you remain prepared to manage the hay fever of the season.
In general, an allergy can range from mild to severe based on the amount of exposure. Some allergens can cause very disruptive responses in people, like allergic eczema or swelling, but airborne irritants have the potential to be on the more dangerous side as well, especially when those irritants trigger asthma. Many seasonal allergic reactions are less severe but entirely disruptive and uncomfortable in their own way.
When our body comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system releases a chemical called histamine. Among other purposes, it initiates the allergic reaction that may result in itchiness, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, a skin rash, or hives. This allergic contact dermatitis response tries to rid the body of the irritant and is a signal to us that exposure to certain indoor or outdoor environmental factors isn’t optimal for our individual sensitivities.
Ragweed, a shrub that produces a flower, is one of the most common pollen irritants out there. It sheds its pollen in August and goes dormant with the first frost towards the end of fall. There’s not much that can be done about the plant’s spores in the air, but keeping the windows closed to keep it out of the house is a first step towards controlling your reactions. Wearing a mask outdoors and washing your clothes regularly to remove any pollen will also minimize your direct contact with the plant.
Fungus can grow indoors or outdoors, and their spores are spread through the air in a similar way to pollen. Mold and mildew thrive in dark, damp conditions like in basements, bathrooms, and garages, but they can grow in any room in the house. They also grow outside in the spaces created by fallen leaves, on the ground, or in the gutters, which can become a problem if they aren’t collected or properly composted. Keeping indoor and outdoor spaces cleaned and tidied up will decrease the chances of mold growing in your space.
Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that survive on collected dust. They can’t necessarily be eradicated, but vacuuming regularly, washing fabrics, and avoiding carpets as much as possible are all strategies to keep down their numbers and the potential for allergic reactions.
As we start to spend more time indoors, we might be around pet dander more frequently and in higher concentrations. Keeping your pets brushed, washed, and groomed will help contain dander before it accumulates around the house. Similar to keeping dust under control, vacuuming regularly and keeping fabrics clean helps keep irritants to a minimum.
When kids go back to school, they’re exposed to some new allergens that are more difficult to control than when they’re at home. Chalk dust, food allergies, and things other children may bring to school with them can all affect your own child’s allergies. Making sure their teacher is aware of any allergies and that your child is prepared with their inhaler or any medications can reduce the risk of reactions in the classroom.
Each person’s sensitivity to any specific allergen will determine what sort of a reaction will happen. Over-the-counter antihistamines can be a solution to particularly stubborn allergies, and for less intense reactions, immune-building routines may help the body’s ability to fight off irritants when they are present. For severe allergies or asthma, your doctor can prescribe medications that, taken regularly, may alleviate the negative reactions to allergens.
If you’ve been experiencing discomfort or cold-like symptoms in the fall, schedule a consultation with one of our premier dermatology partners to see if you might have an undiagnosed allergy.