If you think once summer is over you don’t have to worry about allergies, guess again. Ragweed and other autumn-blooming weeds release pollen into the air up until the first frost of the season, which means you might have to tuck a decongestant into your pocket when standing in line for your pumpkin spice latte. Other allergens are year-round offenders.
Common Fall Allergens in Topeka
How does your immune system respond to allergens?
Whenever your immune system encounters something it views as a threat, it responds by releasing chemicals called histamines into the bloodstream. These produce symptoms including itchy, watery eyes, nose and throat; sneezing; and a runny or stuffy nose—telltale signs of allergies. For people with asthma, their condition is exacerbated; allergies can cause inflamed airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, and increase the chances of a dangerous reaction called anaphylactic shock.
How to Prevent Fall Allergies in Kansas
It’s important to control your allergies in order to reduce their impact; your Topeka ear, nose and throat specialist recommends the following preventive tips.
- Know which allergens occur in the fall. Just like in the spring and summer, pollen can cause an allergic reaction in the fall, as well. Ragweed produces large amounts of pollen when it blooms during mid-August through October; the tiny particles can travel hundreds of miles, causing misery for people in places where ragweed doesn’t even grow. The cool, damp weather associated with fall can cause an explosive growth in mold, which often thrives in wet leaves and damp basements. Dust mites are prevalent throughout the year, and often more noticeable during the cooler fall months when you are spending more time indoors.
- Make sure your symptoms are related to allergies. Just because you’re experiencing allergy-like symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are actually allergic to a particular substance. Mold, for instance, can cause symptoms in almost anybody. The best way to determine whether you actually have allergies? Be on the alert for itchiness in the eyes, nose and throat. These are allergy-specific symptoms unrelated to other diseases. If you’re unsure, an allergy skin or blood test can confirm whether you’re allergic to a particular substance.
- Check pollen and mold counts before heading outside. Newspapers, television weather reports and smartphone apps can all keep you abreast of pollen counts in your neighborhood. Try to avoid venturing outdoors when they are higher; as a general rule of thumb, they are usually worse in the morning, before 10 a.m. Also skip outdoor activities on windy days, when pollen is likely to be blowing through the air.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses. Pollen and mold spores can easily come into contact with your hair and eyes, so protecting these areas by wearing a hat and sunglasses when going outside will help cut down on symptoms.
- Keep windows and doors closed. Sunny, warm Indian Summer-like spells occur at least once on average every season. It’s tempting to open up your house and let fresh air in during these pleasant stretches, but doing so is like setting out a welcome mat for allergies. Run the air-conditioning instead. The same holds true for your automobile.
- Change your clothes when you come home. Pollen, mold spores and other allergens can hitch a ride on your clothing, so be sure to change into an outfit you only wear indoors once you get home. A quick shower offers additional protection by ensuring you wash these substances from your skin and hair.
- Clean your home regularly. A clean home is your best defense against allergens. You don’t have to cover every square inch, but at a minimum, focus on the areas where you spend most of your time, such as the bedroom and living room. Wash your linens and bedding in hot water once a week and vacuum whenever you can. Don’t overlook upholstered furniture! A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system will help filter out even minuscule substances that cause irritation.
- Run a dehumidifier in the bedroom. Because dust mites are more likely to be a problem in moist environments, purchase a dehumidifier for the bedroom (and other heavily-frequented areas) and aim for humidity levels below 50 percent. This will keep dust mites in check.
- Stock up on allergy medications. Despite your best efforts, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to eliminate all allergens from your home. Make sure you have plenty of antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays to help when symptoms flare up.
If you’d like more tips on preventing allergies during the fall, contact an ENT doctor in Topeka.
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