Fall is my favorite season in many ways, but it is also one of my worst times of the year for allergy flare-ups. How about you?
I love the return to cooler temperatures and the beautifully changing colors of the landscape. But, did you know that the conditions that trigger those environmental positives are also the same conditions that trigger an increase in the number of circulating mold spores?
Two Reasons Why Mold Spore Levels Rise in the Fall
1. Cooler fall temperatures also often accompany wetter, rainier conditions. Damp earth and leaves are a perfect home for mold spores to mature in.
2. As leaves on trees change color, they also start to fall to the ground and accumulate in large piles. Again, this is the perfect habitat for outdoor mold spores.
If you spend much time outdoors in the fall hiking, walking or even just cleaning out the garden and/or raking leaves, you will be exposed to mold. And if you're sensitive to mold, then you can also expect that your allergy symptoms will worsen.
Weed Pollen Levels Also Rise in the Fall
Another common fall allergy trigger is weed pollen. Ragweed is the most common culprit, as it grows in nearly every area of the United States. But there are quite a few other weeds that produce allergy-inducing pollens as well, including sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed (Russian thistle) and cocklebur.
Ragweed and other weed pollens generally begin to circulate in mid to late August and peak in the fall. Look forward to the first big frost of the season, because until you get one, the weed pollen levels aren't going down!
How to Enjoy the Fall Even With Allergies
So, short of locking yourself inside a bubble (or at least your house), what can you do to keep allergies from interfering with your enjoyment of the wonderful fall season we have ahead of us?
- Watch the pollen counts. When pollen levels are especially high, for example on windy days, stay indoors with windows closed as much as you can. Or, go outdoors after 10a.m. Pollen levels tend to be highest in the early morning hours, typically between 5a.m. and 10a.m.
- Dry your laundry inside, where it won't be exposed to mold and weed pollen in the air. A clothes dryer is your best bet.
- Use whatever allergy prescription medicine you have. Both oral antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays are very effective in preventing and minimizing nasal allergy symptoms. If you're not getting effective relief, talk with your doctor. It might be time to try something different. If eye allergies trouble you, try one of the antihistamine eye drops available over the counter now.
- Wear a mask if you rake leaves or work in soil. A face mask with a HEPA-filter will go a long way toward minimizing your exposure to allergens if you must work outdoors during the fall.