The fall season brings crisper air and aesthetic changes in foliage. But, unfortunately, it also ushers in allergies that affect nearly one in five Americans. Approximately 50 million people in the US fall victim to autumn allergies, including the 13 million Americans that deal with hay fever. This is primarily due to ragweed pollen allergies, causing itchy eyes, stuffy noses, runny nostrils, sneezing, and even asthma flares.
Just one plant can release a billion irritants into the air during ragweed season. As we enter the fall season, you can stay one step ahead of fall allergies by understanding common allergies, what causes them, and what common symptoms look like.
Common Allergies and What Causes Them
As mentioned above, ragweed is the most common culprit for fall allergies. With the cooler nights, pollen is released in the air, causing nasal congestion and sinusitis. Pollen can settle on plants and even travel for hundreds of miles due to gusty and windy conditions. While ragweed accounts for 75% of fall allergies, there are other causes. These include (but are not limited to):
- Animal dander. Dander is not relegated to the fall season. Pet hair triggers allergies in homes year-round, especially if your canine or feline is shedding. Coughing, wheezing, itching, watery eyes, and hives are common symptoms of pet-related allergies.
- Certain fruits and vegetables. Some foods also cause allergies – primarily bananas, melon, and zucchini. These can cause wheezing, sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and even low-grade fever.
- Dust. Dust mites love to congregate in warm, arid areas. When heaters are turned on in the fall, the mites get circulated into the air, triggering wheezing, sneezing, and runny noses.
- Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). For anyone with these conditions, allergies can make symptoms worse. The cold fall air, smoke, and stress trigger allergies and make it difficult to breathe normally.
- Mold. Mold spores grow in areas with high moisture levels and multiply in backyards and gardens due to falling, damp leaves. These mold spores cause coughing, itchy eyes, and even respiratory problems for folks with asthmatic conditions.
Symptoms of Fall Allergies
Several symptoms stem from fall allergies. One of the most annoying is a runny nose or post-nasal drip. When the body produces excess mucus, it comes out of the nostrils. When it runs down the back of the throat or nose, it is known as post-nasal drip.
Fall allergies are known to cause excess mucus in the nose and throat. While mucus is beneficial in fending off bacteria and viruses, it adversely affects the nose, throat, and airways when too much is produced.
Sinusitis may also occur due to inflammation in the sinuses. However, this has the opposite effect of runny noses, resulting in nasal and head stuffiness. A person may also experience watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and even dark circles under the eyes.
Here are some more common fall allergy symptoms:
- Fatigue or restlessness
- Hives and rash
- Low-grade fever
- Shortness of breath (in some individuals)
There are many at-home treatments for autumn allergies. You can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medications without a physician’s prescription. However, it would be best to speak to your doctor first to make sure you buy the right one. Decongestant nasal sprays open up clogged passages and allow you to breathe freely. These should only be used for three days, and if symptoms persist, you may need to make an appointment to see your family doctor.
If you have high blood pressure, some allergy drugs may interact with your blood pressure medication. Keep this in mind when speaking with your physician. Here are some at-home treatments that can help manage fall allergies:
- Antihistamines stop itching, sniffling, and sneezing.
- Decongestants relieve stuffiness and dry up mucus in the nose.
- Steroid nasal sprays reduce inflammation in your nose. This opens up the breathing airways and lets you sleep comfortably at nighttime.Immunotherapy can help you feel better overall. These are usually allergy shots or oral tablets designed to combat the symptoms of fall allergies.
- ZYRTEC is a medicine that works rapidly to provide lasting allergy relief. Talk to your physician about this allergy medicine, which is designed to help both adults and children.
Fall Allergy Relief
Dealing with fall allergies is never an easy ordeal for the sufferer. While home treatments are essential, there are other ways to manage your autumn allergy symptoms. Take the following into consideration:
- Check the pollen count and download local fall allergy reports. This is an informative way to avoid allergens in your area.
- Drinking warm liquids like herbal tea can help some allergy sufferers. These beverages also clear up excess mucus in the nasal passages.
- Stay indoors and keep all doors and windows closed. Pollen is usually at its peak during the late morning to midday hours, so staying inside can help you avoid exposure.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your home clean. Vacuuming and installing a HEPA air filter also catches those fall allergies – and prevents them from gaining a foothold indoors.
How to Differentiate Allergies From COVID-19 Symptoms
Some COVID-19 and fall allergy symptoms are similar and tend to overlap—for example, cough and shortness of breath. However, a primary sign of COVID-19 is a fever of 100.4 and above. Fever is usually not a symptom of autumn allergies, though some sufferers do get a low-grade one. It can be difficult to distinguish symptoms, so understanding how both are spread is a vital part of the equation.
COVID-19 spreads from person to person. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. This is accompanied by chills, shaking, sore throat, congestion, or runny nose. Sufferers also experience muscle and body aches, fatigue, and headaches. There is also a loss of taste and smell, along with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Fall Allergy Symptoms
Fall allergy symptoms do not spread from person to person. Signs of fall allergies include runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchy or watery eyes. Sufferers also experience redness, sensitive skin, rash, hives, or swelling. There is also shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
When You Should Visit a Doctor/ER for Allergy Treatment
Fall allergies should not be taken lightly. You should visit a doctor if experiencing chronic sinus infections or recurring nasal congestion. Your physician will examine you and determine the best route of action to take. This may include seeing an allergist, especially if you are dealing with hay fever or difficulty breathing.
Contact 911 or visit an ER immediately if you experience difficulty in breathing or swallowing. Symptoms that prompt a quick ER visit also include lightheadedness and swelling of the mouth or throat.
Visit Family First ER
Family First ER specializes in treating fall allergies and symptoms. With experienced, dedicated physicians on staff, we can diagnose and treat these conditions for patients of all ages.
With 24/7 emergency room services, we have board-certified doctors with the expertise you need to feel better. Contact us today for any questions or concerns.