You made it through a tough spring allergy season and are enjoying every moment of the summer. But just when you think your allergies are under control, a new problem is brewing. In the blink of an (itchy) eye, fall allergy season will be here.
You may be thinking, "It's still summer. Why worry about itchy eyes and sneezing now? I'm feeling OK and the kids aren't ready to start thinking about school!"
"Ragweed, the biggest allergy trigger in the fall, usually starts releasing its pollen with cooler nights and warm days in mid- to late August. Ragweed season can last into September and October when the first frost hits," says allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "If you suffer from spring allergies, there's a good chance you also suffer from fall allergies."
A single ragweed plant can release a million pollen grains in a day. Winds can carry these grains for up to 100 miles, which means no matter where you live, you'll likely be affected if you're allergic to ragweed. Add to this high levels of mold spores that are common in the fall, and it's no wonder people end up sneezing and wheezing.
Dr. Tilles says the key to winning the war on fall allergies is to start early while still in the heart of summer. Here are some tips from ACAAI to consider:
1. An ounce of prevention: Take your fall allergy medications two weeks before symptoms usually begin, which can mean early or mid-August. Remember to continue your medication for two weeks after the first frost.
2. Wait on the "fresh air": Keep your car and home windows closed. Use your air conditioning to regulate temperature. When you open windows, you allow ragweed and other allergens in, and they stick to surfaces.
3. Dress like a secret agent: If you do go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep ragweed pollen out of your eyes.
4. Mask out the irritants: After spending time outdoors, leave your shoes at the door. Then shower, change and wash your clothes to remove the pollen. For summer and fall yard tasks, wear a NIOSH N95-rated filter mask. Only N95 masks filter out pollen due to its micro size.
5. Have a heart-to-heart with junior: If your child is old enough, make sure they know what their triggers are before they head back to school. Teach them how to properly use any prescribed inhaler device or epinephrine auto injector. Update all prescriptions for the start of the school year.
6. School the teachers: Help new teachers understand your child's allergy triggers and how to address them. Share your child's treatment plan with school staff, including any medication needed during school hours. If your child has a food allergy, let the teacher know they need two epinephrine auto injectors with them at all times.
7. Coach the coaches: If your child participates in athletic activities, make sure the coach or physical education teacher knows what to do in case of an asthma- or allergy-related event.
8. Go straight to the experts: Board-certified allergists are trained to diagnose and treat your symptoms, and can create an individual action plan. If you think you or your child might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies and asthma, go to acaai.org to find an allergist in your area and take the symptoms test.