When we think of allergies, many of us think of the spring sniffles. But allergy season can be nasty in the fall, too!
In fact, thanks to an extended ragweed season in the northernmost areas of North America, fall allergy season is expected to last about 27 days longer this year, a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study found. Here's a look at why fall allergies start -- and how to outsmart them.
Ragweed Sets You Off
Weeds, especially ragweed, are common fall allergens, says William Berger, M.D., clinical professor of allergy and immunology at the University of California at Irvine. "Weeds are all over the U.S., but ragweed is primarily east of the Rockies, in the Midwest and the Eastern U.S.," Berger explains, adding that the weeds usually last until the first frost. Having symptoms? See an allergist, who will run skin or blood tests. You may also want to track when symptoms flare and subside, and share your detective work with your doctor.
"You might sneeze more than twice in a row with a cold, but more commonly, that's a symptom of allergies," says Berger. "When an inhaled allergen gets into the nose, it releases histamines that irritate nerve endings. Sneezing helps clear out the irritants," he adds. Your serial sneezing may be joined by a stuffy or runny nose that shows no sign of abating after a week of misery -- a cold rarely lasts that long. Allergies aren't associated with fever, Berger says. One last clue: Mucus linked to allergies is usually clear, but colds and flu produce yellow or green gunk due to the infection. Gross but good to know.
Take a Beach Vacation
Thanks to the shore's lack of vegetation and that purifying breeze, Berger says that you might feel better at the beach. The arid Southwest may also bring relief, but one caveat: People moving there from the East have brought non-native, allergy-aggravating plants with them. The muggy South is sniffle central. "Foliage is heavier in the Southeast, and the humidity can trap the pollen so it stays in the air longer," Berger explains. If you can't be near the coast, try visualizing the ocean for a few minutes to lower your anxiety. Even everyday stressors such as a job interview can make you hyper-responsive to allergens up to a day later, a study from The Ohio State University at Columbus finds.
Living With Pets, Carpet and Clutter
All three of these factors increase allergens in the home. Clutter attracts dust, about 60 percent of which originates from tracked-in soil and airborne particles like pollen, according to a study from the University of Arizona. "Carpeting is a reservoir for pollen because the tiny granules cling to carpet fibers," says James Sublett, M.D., clinical professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Louisville. Your pooch picks up pollen outside. Wipe down pets with a damp towel at the door, clean surfaces with microfiber cloths (which prevent dust from going airborne) and use a HEPA vacuum cleaner or a cyclonic model, such as a Dyson, to depollenize carpets, suggests Sublett, who is also chair of the indoor environments committee for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Leave shoes and coats by the door -- or at least set out a mat so visitors can wipe their feet.
Take Meds Before the Season Begins
Drugs such as Claritin and Zyrtec block receptor sites for histamines that cause allergy attacks; if you're already sniffling, it's too late, Berger says. Start one to two weeks prior to the season, and take meds regularly, including one day before you'll be around a trigger. Berger says the best treatment for allergies is topical therapy -- see your doctor for a prescription if your suffering persists.
More from MSN Healthy Living:
- Cold Weather Allergies
- 7 Healthy Milk Alternatives
- 10 Highly Unusual Allergies
- Bing: Dealing with Fall Allergies
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