If you suffer from seasonal allergies and believe me I do, then you know that every season seems to have its own unique irritants. While some people seem to be able to go through life without so much as a sniffle (like my husband), I seem to spend each season with a stuffy and runny nose.
I reached out to Dr. Ben Conoyer with Midwest ENT in Saint Peters to seek out some more information on fall seasonal allergies. The good news is that tree and grass pollens are worse in the spring, usually March through June. The bad news is that in the late summer and fall, weeds and mold allergies pick up. Dr. Conoyer told me “if you have these allergies, you can check the local weather forecast to find if allergy counts are high.” On days when allergy counts are higher, try to limit your outdoor exposure.
Mold allergies can be especially troublesome. Mold spores can blow for hundreds of miles in a day and easily become airborne when weather fronts move in. Outside, mold likes to grow on the north side of buildings and trees. Inside, mold likes to grow when moisture makes its way into our homes. How to combat this? Dr. Conoyer suggests using a dehumidifier to reduce the chance of mold growth. He also notes “molds can also be found growing on indoor plants.” Having mold resistant plants can also help reduce mold growth.
Yard work can also trigger outdoor allergies. “Mowing the grass is essentially using a large fan blade that kicks up allergens”. Dr. Conoyer suggests using a mask when mowing or raking leaves to lessen the impact you may feel. Or, better yet, have someone who doesn’t suffer from seasonal allergies (like my husband) do the work while you hang out inside!
Overall, the best way to reduce outdoor allergies is to stay inside, with the air conditioning on while keeping the humidity in your house between 35% and 50%. But that’s not reality for most of us, or even all that desirable. So many fall activities like hiking, fruit picking, and bonfires require us to be outside to enjoy them. While you can send your family out onto the patio to enjoy the fire pit while you watch from the conditioned air behind the living room window, that doesn’t really make for the ideal fall family moment.
So how can you enjoy being outside in the cooling fall temperatures and lessen your reaction to outdoor allergens? There are three categories of medications that you can try: steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants. Steroid nasal sprays have been shown to be very effective in treating nasal allergies, but generally, need to be used daily to maximize effectiveness. Antihistamines are great at providing relief from sneezing, sniffling and itching, but don’t relieve nasal congestion. Decongestants offer relief from stuffiness and reduce nasal mucus, but won’t do anything to quell sneezing, sniffling, and itching. There are some medicines that combine an antihistamine and decongestant in one medicine (usually this is signified by adding the letter “D” after the brand of the antihistamine). You can find out more about which medicine might be best for you by talking to your doctor.
There are other, non-medicinal ways to curb your allergies that you can try as well.
Essential oils may be able to help you reduce your allergies. You can apply them topically, ingest them orally, or inhale them through a diffuser. Chamomile oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may be able to reduce your nasal congestion. Eucalyptus oil may help prevent inflammation and allow air passageways to remain open. Tea tree oil may be able to help reduce allergens and irritants in your home. Oils can also have a soothing effect because of the pleasant smell and feeling of cooling and comfort they can provide.
You may also benefit from changing your diet to a moderately low fat, high complex carb diet, drinking more water, and using herbal supplements. Some of the herbs that may help ease your allergies are Angelica sinensis as an antihistamine, Euphrasia officinalis as a decongestant, Silybum marianum as an anti-inflammatory, and Achillea millefolium as a decongestant.
As with any holistic treatment plan, you should talk to your doctor first and be knowledgeable of the pros and cons of any path you choose to take. The best advice? Be smart in your exposure to allergens by limiting time outdoors when pollen is at its peak, by changing the HEPA filter in your heating system regularly, and by wearing a mask when you rake leaves and do other yard work. And when your allergies do flare up, treat them with whatever works best for you.
You may never be able to spend all day, every day outside with no allergies, but with the right treatment plan, you can increase your enjoyment of the outdoors and all of the fun that it can provide.