The cooler temperatures may be sending you outdoors, but it could also be the cause of your seasonal allergies. Although ragweed pollen is the main cause of fall allergies, an expert at the Baylor College of Medicine warns that storms that send in cold fronts can also stir allergens from the spring and summer – like tree pollen and grass.
“Cold fronts tend to bring in a lot of wind and stir up a lot of allergens,” Dr. David Corry, professor of medicine in the section of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine. “Not only ragweed but pollens from earlier in the season that are dried out and stuck in the ground. People can frequently have a return of their allergy symptoms in the fall even if they are mainly allergic to pollens in the spring and summer.”
Corry offers a few tips on how to prevent allergies so you can enjoy the cooler fall temperatures.
- Stay indoors
Another major allergy trigger is mold and mold spores that are carried into the air by the wind and rain. Corry recommends remaining indoors shortly after thunderstorms, especially for those who have asthma.
“If you are mold allergic or you have mold related asthma, those can get dramatically worse very quickly and that is a real threat to health,” Corry said. “These storms as they come through can put you in the hospital and cause very severe reactions. There is actually a name for this called ‘thunderstorm asthma,’ so these storms are very important for people who have allergic diseases of all kinds.”
Corry warns that if your house has been flooded by any of the recent storms or has water damage of any kind that it needs to be repaired immediately to avoid mold growth, which can be even more detrimental to your health.
- Housekeeping and personal hygiene
Maintaining a clean home and showering after being outdoors is essential in preventing allergies since people tend to carry allergens into the home through their clothes, Corry said.
“These allergens are small particles that can stick to your hair, clothes and skin, so it’s important to maintain personal hygiene by showering after being outdoors and washing the clothes that you wear outdoors,” Corry said.
For those suffering from severe allergies, he recommends removing all fixed carpeting in the home since they tend to trap pollen and dust mites. If changing to hard floors is not an option, Corry recommends using a quality vacuum system to clean the carpets on a regular basis.
“Anybody who has allergies really needs to be particularly in tune to keeping the house clean and dust free, such as changing your air conditioner filters regularly,” Corry said.
If you suffer from allergies inside the home, he recommends placing a portable HEPA filter in the bedrooms or living room to help purify the air.
“Those really help because most of the time allergens from pets or dust mites are not in the air but when you walk across the floor or carpets you are dispersing these things back up into the air for you to breathe in,” Corry said.
- Treatment options
Since pollen tends to collect in the airway and nasal passages, an effective way to treat allergies is to rinse the nose out. Corry recommends using a neti pot – a technique where a saline solution drains through your nasal passages. These can be found at any local pharmacy.
For those suffering mild allergy symptoms, Corry suggests trying over-the-counter non-drowsy antihistamines in combination with nasal steroids. If this is not effective, he recommends visiting a physician who can prescribe inhaled steroids or other types of medications to treat symptoms.
For those with the worst form of allergies, he recommends allergen immunotherapy – a process that begins with a skin test to determine what is causing the allergy. Allergists inject allergens in low doses into the skin and anything that causes an itchy red welt indicates that the person has sensitivity to that allergen. The person then receives weekly injections to build up an immune response to that allergen so that over time they stop reacting to it.
As of 2019, Corry said research has shown that severe allergies are strongly related to mold – including molds growing in your airway like sinuses, nasal passages and lungs. Recognized today as airway mycosis, fungus growing in your airway not only causes allergies but can produce diseases like asthma or chronic sinusitis.This can be relievedwith antimicrobial therapy.
“For most of us, airway mycosis is not an issue because our immune systems are sufficient enough to get rid of the fungus,” Corry said. “However, there is a fraction of people who can’t fight it off, but they’re the ones who get into trouble with really severe allergies, difficult to manage asthma and sinusitis. That’s when medical professionals need to step in and give them a boost, and often that takes the form of antifungals as or antibiotics that are specific for killing fungi.”