Common Fall Allergens & How to Fight Them
Fighting Back Against 4 Autumn Allergies
When it comes to seasonal allergies, most people immediately think of the pollen explosion in the springtime. But itchy throat, watery eyes, sniffles, and sneezing are not relegated to April and May alone. When the leaves start to fall and the air cools, a host of allergens can cause the same set of symptoms.
Click through the slideshow to learn common fall allergens and how to keep them at bay.
Fall Allergen: Ragweed
A single ragweed plant can produce one billion grains of pollen. The yellow flowering weed blooms in August but causes problems well into the fall until the first freeze kills the plant. It grows nationwide but is most prevalent in rural areas in the East and Midwest. Approximately 75 percent of people who suffer springtime allergies will also be affected by ragweed pollen.
Plan of Attack: Ragweed
- Monitor your local pollen count, and stay indoors as much as possible, especially at peak hours, usually mid-morning to early afternoon.
- If you have to go outside, wear a painter’s mask to filter pollen.
- Keep home and car windows closed.
- Take off shoes and jackets before entering the home.
- Wash clothes, linens, and curtains regularly;don’t line dry your laundry.
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly.
Fall Allergens: Mold & Mildew
These fungi thrive outdoors and indoors and grow from and produce spores that, like pollen, are spread by the wind or indoor air. Mold and mildew grow year-round. In the fall, they grow on damp fallen leaves and compost piles. Indoors they thrive in damp areas of the basement, bathroom, and kitchen. Unlike pollen, mold and mildew are not killed by the first frost, but they do tend to go dormant in the winter months.
Plan of Attack: Mold & Mildew
- Rake yard of fallen leaves, and remove leaves from gutters; don’t leave piles of leaves in yard.
- Keep compost and yard-waste piles away from the house; clean compost bins regular.
- Wear protective mask when raking leaves and cleaning compost bins.
- Use a dehumidifier in the house, especially in the basement; air should be between 35 and 50 percent humidity.
- Clean bathrooms and kitchen regularly to avoid mildew and mold build-up.
Fall Allergen: Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that feed primarily on flakes of human skin shed naturally around the home. They are a common year-round allergen that thrive in temperatures ranging from the high 60s to mid 70s. In the fall, they can be blasted through the home when the central heating unit is first turned on after summer. Dust mites usually die in extreme temperatures or of the humidity drops below 70 percent. It’s impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites. But you can take steps to keep them at a manageable level.
Plan of Attack: Dust Mites
- Clean air vents throughout the house before turning central heating unit on for the first time after summer.
- Cover your mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers (dust mites love the bedroom).
- Wash bed linens regularly in hot water.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the air below 50 percent humidity.
- Dust and vacuum the home regularly; use a filtering mask when cleaning
- Consider installing hardwood floors instead of wall-to-wall carpet.
Fall Allergen: Pet Dander & Fur
Pet dander is comprised of dead skin that is shed by animals in the home. Up to 30 percent of people with seasonal allergies will also have pet allergies. Pet allergies are triggered by a extra-sensitive immune system reacting to dander, fur, saliva, and/or urine from pets. Some dog breeds cause more reactions than other. Cats are twice as likely than dogs to cause allergic reactions in people.
Plan of Attack: Pet Dander
- Avoid contact with furry pets, especially cats and dogs.
- Consider breeds that are hypoallergenic.
- Washed and groom pets regularly; wear a filtering mask
- Keep pets off furniture.
- Consider only allowing pets in specific areas of the home.
- Keep litter boxes and pet bedding away from airvents.
- Use an air purifier to help clean the air of petallergens.
- Consider pets that do not produce allergens.
Medication and Immunotherapy
For many people, fall allergies can be controlled with over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications that contain antihistamine. They usually come in the form of pills, eye drops, or nasal sprays. Neti pots with a saline rinse have also been used to treat symptoms of allergies. For those with sever allergies that do not respond to OTC options, immunotherapy (allergy shots) are an affective option. The shots work by gradually exposing the immune system to a certain allergen so it can build up a tolerance.
Preparing yourself against allergies doesn’t mean standing guard at the window in fear of pollen and other allergens. Using the rightplants, you can clear the air in your home while livening up your living space.