You probably know what’s coming: Along with changing leaves and dropping temps this fall will come the sniffles, stuffy nose and itchy eyes from allergies to certain plants like ragweed. Unfortunately, climate change has increased the intensity of symptoms and the length of time that many people cope with their autumn allergies.
If fall is a time when you’re hit hard by allergies, you are better off acting now — instead of after you’re already experiencing symptoms.
“Don’t let the changing seasons catch you by surprise,” says Kathleen May, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Planning ahead can help make this year’s fall allergy season a lot more manageable, no matter what’s happening in the environment where you live.”
Whether you’ve had allergies for years or you suspect that they may be the cause of your recent unpleasant symptoms, here are tips from ACAAI to help you prepare for autumn allergies before they strike — so you can reduce itching, sneezing and wheezing and enjoy everything the season has to offer.
Stay in the know
Keep an eye on your local pollen and mold counts. When they are high, it’s best to avoid spending too much time outdoors. Keep the AC running in your car and home to help filter out allergens (rather than leaving the windows open).
You can also protect yourself when you need to be outdoors on higher pollen count days by wearing an N95 mask to help filter out pollen, and wearing a hat and sunglasses to help keep pollen out of your eyes.
Don’t wait to medicate
If you already take allergy medication each fall, make sure not to wait until after your symptoms start. Instead, plan to begin taking your medication about two weeks before your symptoms usually begin for full effectiveness — and keep taking the medication two weeks after the first frost, as your symptoms may linger after most of the pollen is gone.
Unsure exactly when to start taking your medication? Talk to your allergist for advice on a treatment plan that’s proactive rather than reactive. Then take a simple step like adding a medication reminder to your calendar so you won’t forget.
Adjust some household habits
Making a few minor changes to your household routine in the fall — or even year-round — can have an impact on your exposure to allergens while you’re at home. Here are some recommendations:
- Change your HVAC filter every three months — and choose a high-quality filter such as those with a MERV rating of 11-13 for the best filtration of pollen and mold.
- Leave shoes at the door — and wash clothes immediately after spending time outdoors.
- Shower or bathe at night to avoid bringing allergens into your bed.
- Don’t hang clothes or bedding outside to dry after washing.
See an allergist
Because the environmental conditions that create allergens and your body’s response to them can change over time, it’s a good idea to see your allergist for an updated, personalized treatment plan that can best help you manage your symptoms, no matter the season. Allergists are specially trained to help diagnose and treat your specific allergy and/or asthma symptoms, using the latest testing and treatments to help you get back to enjoying your life.