Allergy Q&A: Fall flare-ups

October 22, 2019

If fall greeted you with a dose of sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose, ragweed—the most common weed allergy—was probably responsible. About 23 million Americans are affected by the ragweed pollen, which starts blooming in August and continues through autumn.1

Allergies, in general, are a huge problem in the U.S. We lose over 6 million work and school days and make 16 million visits to our doctors every year2 for flare-ups and troubling symptoms.

So if the light and spreadable ragweed pollen has blown straight to your front door (and seemingly into your nose, eyes, and mouth!), here’s some advice on prevention and relief. Prem Menon, MD, Teladoc’s allergy and immunology expert, answers those 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
  • sneezing
  • 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 prominent in specific seasons. The most common culprit for fall allergies is ragweed. This plant grows wild almost everywhere, but abundantly so on the East Coast and in the Midwest. It blooms and releases enormous amounts of pollen, beginning in August and ending in November until the early 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 in intensity depending on your geographic area. For example, ragweed allergies may be far more bothersome in the Northeast than out West or in the southern states. Various states in the same region often have similar pollens and allergy seasons due to the climate.

Weather influences how plants are pollinated. Climate change and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can enhance the production, distribution, and dispersion of pollens, making them more powerful and leading to 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 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-rated 95 filter mask to protect yourself from airborne particles.
  • Monitor pollens and mold counts. Airborne pollens can travel for several miles. Know the aeroallergens in the 50- to 100-mile radius of where you live.
  • Keep windows shut in your home and car whenever possible to keep pollen out.
  • Think about when you 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, airborne 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—you could try pre-medicating about two hours before with a non-sedating antihistamine (like fexofenadine, loratadine, or levocetirizine) or an anti-inflammatory steroid nose spray (like fluticasone, triamcinolone, budesonide). This will bring symptom relief. Talk to a physician 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 such as ketotifen or olopatadine. Allergy injections or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) are also available by prescription and are typically administered about three months before, or during, the allergy season.

Allergens are virtually everywhere and allergic patients, unfortunately, cannot escape pollens in the air. Our U.S. board-certified physicians 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.

References

1https://community.aafa.org/blog/6-things-you-may-not-know-about-ragweed-pollen-allergy
2https://www.aafa.org/media/2183/AAFA-2018-Fall-Allergy-Capitals-Report.pdf

Additional References used by Prem Menon, MD:
www.aaaai.org
http://acaai.org/allergies/types/pollen-allergy
● Grammer, Leslie C., Paul A. Greenberger, and Roy Patterson, ed. 1997. Allergic Diseases: Diagnosis and Management. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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