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Fall Allergies: What Causes Them? How to Find Out If You Have It and What to Do About It

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The season brings cooler temperatures and a fresh look at your wardrobe, and for some, the fall allergy. Every year, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, which are often referred to by the terms “allergic rhinitis” or “hay fever.” Allergies are a sporadic immune response to allergens which triggers inflammation of nose passages which can cause symptoms like sneezing congestion, runny nose and watery eyes.

While some people experience allergies throughout the time, others experience increased symptoms in certain times of the year, like summer, spring, or in the early autumn. It’s based on the substance that an individual is allergic to, when they experience more symptoms of allergy.

“Whether you have allergies in the spring or the fall, all of these symptoms will be the same,” says Mark Moss, MD, director of the research program within the department of immunology and allergy at the UW-Madison campus as well as an allergist with UWHealth located in Madison, WI. “What makes a major difference is what causes those symptoms.”

Learn more about the fall allergy season as well as the reasons they occur and the way allergists can diagnose them.

What could cause allergies?

According to Dr. Moss, is the most frequently cited reason for allergies in spring. If someone suffers from an allergy to pollen from trees and also is sensitive to grass pollens, symptoms could begin to manifest in the early spring, and persist throughout summer. The fall allergies, on contrary, are caused by certain allergens that show up in September, for example the ones below:

Ragweed

Ragweed According to Dr. Moss, is the most frequently encountered allergen during autumnal months. “The decrease of sunshine causes ragweed to pollinate,” Dr. Moss says. “As a result, the start of the ragweed pollen season is nearly predictable, commencing in the middle of August and peaking around the beginning of September.”

The length of the ragweed season, as per Deeba Masood MD who is an immunologist as well as allergist with the Northwestern Medicine Medical Group in Vernon Hills, IL, is determined by temperature. It needs moderate however not overly hot, temperatures to thrive. “It appears to linger three to four weeks longer these days, from the first of August to mid-October,” she says, citing the effects of climate change as the primary to the cause.

Mold

Mold is another common reason for allergies in the fall According the Dr. Masood. It is a fungus that has seeds, also known as “spores” that spread through the air. The spores are prevalent in damp leaf piles Dr. Moss explains that some mold spores thrive in humid conditions. It may also infest other plant material that is decomposing or even in gardens, according to Dr. Moss.

Weeds, such as grass, trees, as well as other species of weeds

Although ragweed is the most commonly reported allergy in the autumn but it’s not all-encompassing. Other weeds, like marsh elder, pigweed and mugwort, also plant their seeds via pollination during the autumn months, in order to reproduce the following year’s crop according to the Dr. Moss.

Both grass and trees are able to pollinate in the fall, based on the area you live in. As per Dr. Moss, grass pollination is prevalent in the autumn in areas along in the American west coast, as well as in the south. Numerous trees bloom during the autumn months According to Sayantani Sindher, MD, clinical associate professor of allergy and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an allergist at Stanford Healthcare. “For example, elm pollen is currently one of the most common allergies in California,” she says.

If you are suffering from allergies in the fall, how do you determine if you are suffering from these allergies?

The appearance of typical allergies towards the time of August’s end or September every year, in the opinion of Dr. Moss, is a highly reliable predictor of autumn allergies. Treatment for fall allergies is an easy way to determine the cause. “You can be reasonably certain that someone’s symptoms are related to autumn allergies if they improve with allergy medication,” the doctor says.

An appointment with an allergist for a check-up is another way to verify allergies. While some allergists perform blood tests, testing for allergy with a skin prick according to Dr. Masood, is the most reliable method. The skin prick test is conducted together with the health history in order to identify which allergies they suffer from.

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between a viral illness (such as a cold COVID-19) and allergies in some instances but there are some signs to look for. Allergies rarely manifest as the appearance of fever, which is usually linked to the virus as per Dr. Sindher. According to the doctor. Masood, allergies are more likely to occur during a specific time of the season and last for several weeks, as opposed to the normal duration of colds, which are just a couple of days. “If your symptoms last longer than a week, it’s more probable that you have allergies rather than a cold,” she states. However, if you suspect that you’re suffering from COVID-19 due to any reason, it is best to be tested and take all safety measures.

Allergies in the Fall

There are many methods to deal with the symptoms of autumn allergies when you’ve been found to be suffering from them. Simple adjustments to your daily routine can be helpful such as Doctor. Masood suggests keeping an close eye on the amount of pollen in your region and staying inside during the peak hours of pollen (usually from mid-morning until the early afternoon). When it is the time of year for allergies make sure to keep the windows of your house and car shut, and take off your jacket and shoes prior to going in to avoid transferring pollen that you might have collected from in the outdoors.

Allergy medications can also be helpful in relieving symptoms. A nasal steroid spray like Flonase, Nasacort, or Rhinocort as per Dr. Moss, is the best treatment. While these sprays may help in treating all symptoms of allergy but they could require a few weeks to fully function as per her.

The second option, which is also an option that is among the popular remedies is to take antihistamines such Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra available over-the-counter. These medicines work by preventing an immune system’s production of histamine that is released when there is an allergic reaction. They work from a few minutes to hours in the words of the doctor Dr. Moss. Benadryl, a different antihistamine is a good option for treating symptoms too, but it can cause unwanted adverse effects, such as dry lips and fatigue According to her.

The Dr. Sindher recommends using nasal spray along with a salicylate rinse, like the Neti container, in order to remove allergens that trigger allergies from the nasal canal. To maximize the benefits her advice is to cleanse your nose using the use of saline for about 20-30 minutes prior to applying the nasal spray containing steroids.

In the event that none of these remedies are able to reduce the symptoms of allergies, injections from an allergist could be another option. “You educate your immune system to be tolerant to that trigger by exposing it to little doses of what you’re allergic to,” Dr. Sindher explains.

The fall allergies can be a nuisance and may affect your ability to function and perform your daily activities. If you think that you’re suffering from allergies and you’re not getting treatment at home visit your doctor, who will recommend the patient to an allergist when required.

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