Seasonal Allergies: Managing Your Indoor-Outdoor Game

Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

It's no wonder that in many regions of the northern hemisphere, September through November is considered "fall season". Leaves fall, temperatures fall, and humidity falls as rain continues to fall. But mold counts unfortunately rise, and indoor allergens begin to increase as dust mites become more prevalent, and pets spend more time inside.

Autumn is not so nice to those who have allergies to pollens, molds, dust mites and pets. Ragweed continues to hang out with mold spores until the first hard frost of the late fall or winter. Until then, there is much suffering as the weather plays games, with temperatures rising to the 70s for a while then plummeting to the 40s within a 24-hour period. Such changes can wreak havoc on susceptible noses, sinuses and lungs (asthma flare-ups). Cough and cold season is ushered in when schools get back in session, which is a perfect setup for the oncoming flu season.

As we reluctantly turn on the heat, dust mites and other small microscopic particles become more airborne (if you have forced air heat). Quilts, blankets and down comforters are pulled from the closet, further contributing to the dust mite load of bedroom air.

Yes, it's a busy time of year for me and my allergy colleagues in the Midwest and around the country. We spend many hours each day going over environmental controls and plans of action for rhinitis and asthma. This is the time of the year to review your "indoor-outdoor game plan."

Here is a checklist of things to think about if you have seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis.

  1. Check the number of refills and expiration dates on all your allergy

medications to ensure that you won't run out when you need them the most.

  1. Review information on  indoor dust mite controls,  which include changing filters appropriately, having dust mite encasements for your pillows and mattresses, and minimizing dust-catching materials in the bedroom (clutter, open drawers, closets, etc.)

Keep the cat, dog or other furred pets out of the bedroom  at all times. Not only can their dander infiltrate your bed and pillow and trigger allergies, they also increase the dust mite load by providing additional food for them. You see, dust mites feed on human and pet skin scales, which settle into carpets, sofas, mattresses and pillows.

  1. Check the heating unit to assure proper functioning. Indoor pollution may contribute to sinus and lung problems. Change the filters if it is time.

  1. Check central and portable humidifiers (central ones require annual servicing most of the time). Low humidity levels (below 40%) may increase irritation of the nasal passages and throat, as well as dry out the skin and lower the threshold for itching. High indoor humidity levels (greater than 50%)  may enhance mold  and dust mite growth.

Talk to your allergy care provider about medications  that can be increased or replaced if your symptoms worsen. Establish how long you should take them and review possible side effects and drug interactions that may occur with other medications being taken for unrelated ailments.

  1. Although the cooler fall air tempts you to open your windows, avoid doing it. Mold and pollen triggers can pass right through screens and cause more problems for you when they team up with indoor triggers.

Final Words

Having a good indoor-outdoor game plan for the fall and winter seasons may greatly decrease the number of bad days you experience related to allergy symptoms. If your attempts with environmental controls and medications fail, allergy shots may be the next step. Good luck