Tips to Help Allergy Sufferers Breathe Easier this Fall
By Brian Cayko, MBA, RRT
Now that fall is here, we are reminded that it is a time of change. Along with a change in seasonal weather we also see changes in the time, daylight, and allergies.
Yes! Allergies can change with the seasons as well. While you’re preparing to add that extra layer of clothing, open or close those windows (depending on what part of the country you live in), and spend time in and outdoors, also pay close attention to your respiratory health.
Sniffling, sneezing, and difficulty breathing are common among fall allergy sufferers. If you have a preexisting lung disease, such as asthma or COPD, then you are at an increased risk of being more highly affected by these common minor ailments.
Depending on where you live, fall allergies can begin early in August and last well into November. Ragweed is the most common trigger to allergies during the fall season, as this is when it releases its pollen. People with ragweed allergies also commonly suffer from springtime allergies.
Ragweed is a difficult trigger to limit exposure to since its pollen can travel hundreds of miles on wind currents, so your best bet is to keep the outside out and the inside in. Outdoor molds are also common fall allergy triggers. Increased moisture combined with fallen leaf piles or compost can harbor molds.
In case you start to notice these common symptoms — runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath — here are some quick tips to keep you breathing easy this fall.
Limit outdoor exposure
- Keep windows and doors closed. Run your air conditioner instead. The same concept should be applied while you are traveling in vehicles as well.
- Replace your air conditioner air filters regularly and use HEPA filters.
- Bathe your pets frequently, as they can pick up allergens while outside and bring them indoors.
- Keep your yard raked and clean of debris.
- If you must be outside wear a mask.
- Plant pollens are highest around midday, so try to finish up outdoor activities before noon.
- Remove and launder your outdoor work clothes and shower soon after completing your outdoor work to remove any of those clingy allergens.
Clean your indoors wisely
- Don’t use a broom. It will only stir up the allergens you are trying to limit. Instead use a wet mop and damp cloths.
- Vacuum several times a week with a quality vacuum cleaner utilizing HEPA filtration.
- Leave your home for about 30 minutes after cleaning to avoid the particles you may have stirred up.
- Utilize standalone room air filters to filter the rooms you spend the most time in — bedrooms and living rooms, for example.
- Indoor molds, dust, and insects will most likely bother you year round so make sure you regularly check the home for these triggers and remove any possible sources. This may require professional consultation.
Take your medicine
- Over-the-counter medications work well for most people. Start with antihistamines, decongestants, or intranasal steroids.
- Nasal irrigation using a saline solution as directed by the product instructions can help clear any lingering allergens from your upper airway.
- If symptoms persist, see your doctor. He or she may offer a prescription strength medication or refer you to an allergist. You may also be a candidate for allergy shots.
- Increased awareness of when you are suffering from an allergic reaction, along with your activity during that time, can help identify specific allergen triggers. Keep an “Allergy Journal” to track this information.
- Finally, utilize an allergy tracking service such as this one offered by The Weather Channel. Many of these services are available on your mobile devices as well. They are very useful in rating your local outdoor air quality and can help you determine your allergy risk that day.
Brian Cayko is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Great Falls, MT, where he currently serves as director of clinical education for the respiratory care program at Great Falls College MSU.