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October 16, 2023

Fall allergies can last through November, but there are several ways to manage them

Ragweed pollen and outdoor mold are allergens that spike in the autumn months

As fall wears on, seasonal allergies continue to wreak havoc on many people in the region.

Like other types of allergies, seasonal allergies occur when the body's immune system overreacts to something in the environment, such as plant pollen, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In the fall, the most common cause of allergies is ragweed — a wild plant particularly common on the East Coast — that blooms and releases pollen between August and November.

Seasonal allergies affect nearly 26% of adults and about 19% of children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Climate change has caused the fall allergy season to become more intense and stretch on for more time. Temperatures stay warmer for longer, which allows ragweed to have more time to release allergens in the fall. Higher carbon dioxide emissions also cause plants to release larger amounts of pollen.

While ragweed is the most common cause of fall allergies, other fall allergy triggers include outdoor mold allergens that are found in decaying leaves and plants. And as people move inside when temperatures drop, indoor allergens like dust mites and animal dander add further misery to those who suffer from allergies.

Seasonal allergies can produce multiple cold-like symptoms. Thankfully, there are several ways of treating and preventing them.

Fall allergy symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, allergy symptoms can include: 

• Runny nose and nasal congestion
• Watery, itchy red eyes
• Sneezing
• Coughing
• Itchy nose, throat or roof of mouth
• Postnasal drip
• Swollen under-eye appearance
• Fatigue, often due to trouble sleeping

Seasonal allergies are sometimes referred to as "hay fever" — referring to the abundance of allergy triggers during spring's haying season, when farmers harvest and bale hay — but fever is not a symptom of allergies.

Treatments and prevention

For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, the best course of action is to see an allergist, who may recommend treatments such as allergy shots or medications to control symptoms, according to the ACAAI. 

Allergists also may recommend several strategies to avoid allergy triggers. Some prevention tips include: 

• Checking weather reports to monitor pollen and mold counts during allergy seasons. In the fall, ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning
• Avoiding spending time outdoors
• Keeping windows and doors shut at home and in the car
• Taking a shower and changing clothing after spending time outdoors
• Wearing a N95 mask when doing outdoor chores like raking leaves or mowing the lawn, and taking appropriate medication beforehand

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