Has fall greeted you with a dose of sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose? If a COVID-19 or flu diagnosis has already been ruled out, ragweed, the most common weed allergy, could be to blame. About 23 million Americans are affected by ragweed pollen, which starts blooming in August and continues through autumn.1
And, it isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, researchers project that the levels of ragweed pollen will double between the years 2000 to 2060.2
So, if this light and spreadable pollen has blown straight to your front door (and right into your nose, eyes and mouth!), here’s some advice on prevention and relief from Dr. Kena Shah, a Teladoc board-certified allergy and immunology specialist. Read on for her answers to your pressing allergy questions so you don’t have to miss out on the fall fun.
Q: What causes allergies, and what are the main symptoms?
A: Seasonal allergy symptoms develop when your immune system overreacts to pollens, or allergens, in your environment. This causes:
- nasal congestion
- runny nose
- itching, redness and tearing of the eyes
- ear canal itch
- itching of the throat
Q: What are the most common allergens that affect Americans in the fall?
A: The above symptoms are often due to the trees, grasses, weeds and molds of specific seasons. The most common offender for fall allergies is ragweed. This plant grows wild almost everywhere, but is especially abundant on the East Coast and in the Midwest. It blooms and releases large amounts of pollen from August through the first frost. Other fall pollens include weeds such as burning bush, cocklebur, pigweed, sagebrush, mugwort, Russian thistle and mold.
Q: How does the climate affect seasonal allergies?
A: The impact of seasonal plants and weeds varies depending on where you live. For example, ragweed allergies may be far more bothersome in the Northeast than out West or in the southern states. States in the same region often have similar pollens and allergy seasons due to the climate.
Weather influences how plants are pollinated. For instance, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can make plants produce and distribute more pollens, worsening allergy seasons.
Q: What tips can you offer to lessen the impact of allergies?
A: Making some simple changes can bring sufferers seasonal allergy relief:
- When mowing the lawn, raking leaves or doing outdoor chores, wear a face mask with a filter, such as a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved N95 mask, to guard against allergens.
- Monitor pollens and mold counts. Pollens can travel for several miles. Know the common allergens in the 50- to 100-mile radius of where you live.
- Keep the windows in your home and car shut whenever possible to keep pollens out.
- Think about the time of day when you typically do outdoor activities. During the weed pollen season in late summer and early fall, levels are highest in the mornings.
- If you’ve been working or playing outside, take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes when you come inside.
- Plan activities accordingly: On windy and warm days, pollen counts can peak. On days that are not windy, allergens are grounded.
Q: How do I know if medicine is right for me?
A: Before you’re exposed to ragweed pollen or another allergen, take an antihistamine (like fexofenadine, loratadine or levocetirizine) or try a steroid nose spray (like fluticasone, triamcinolone or budesonide) about two hours in advance. This will bring some symptom relief. Talk to your doctor about what may be the right fit for your needs.
If you’re experiencing ragweed-fueled itchy, irritated or swollen eyes, a doctor may suggest an eye drop to help with the symptoms. Allergy injections or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) are also available by prescription and are typically taken about three months before, or during, the allergy season.
Allergens are virtually everywhere and allergic patients, unfortunately, can’t escape pollens in the air. Teladoc board-certified doctors are available to work with you 24/7 on preventing, managing and relieving fall allergy symptoms. Connect with Teladoc now so you’re always ready to move smoothly from season to season.
Updated October 22, 2021