Consumer Affairs: Get ready, another allergy season is coming up

Allergist offers some tips for coping with fall allergies

08/07/2015 | ConsumerAffairs |  Health

By Mark Huffman

Mark Huffman has been a consumer news reporter for ConsumerAffairs since 2004. He covers real estate, gas prices and the economy and has reported extensively on negative-option sales. He was previously an Associated Press reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., a correspondent for Westwoood One Radio Networks and Marketwatch.  Read Full Bio→

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The spring allergy season was one of the worst in recent memory and now the early fall hay fever season is dead ahead.

If there seems there is no relief for the allergy sufferer, it might be because there isn't.

“Although spring, summer and fall have different sets of allergens to trip up allergy and asthma sufferers, they can cause the same symptoms,” said allergist Dr. Janna Tuck, Fellow of theAmerican College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Those who have multiple triggers may not be able to distinguish between what’s causing their symptoms. They just know they’re congested, with red eyes and an itchy nose.”

Tuck says ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. This plant usually starts releasing its pollen with the cool nights and warm days of August and can last into September and October. Unfortunately, most of the people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed.

Familiar symptoms

If you suffer from allergies, you know the symptoms: stuffy nose, dark circles under the eyes, and post-nasal drip. Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between a bad allergy and a bad cold. Both can make you feel miserable.

To manage fall allergy symptoms ACAAI suggests doing many of the same things you would to to treat a spring allergy flare-up.

“The most important reminder is to start taking fall allergy medication two weeks or so before symptoms usually begin,” said Tuck. “You should also continue your medication for two weeks after the first frost. Both nasal and eye symptoms associated with ragweed allergies can linger after pollen is no longer in the air.”

Tuck says there are allergy tablets for grass and ragweed pollens. The tablets need to be started at least three months before allergy season begins, so if you haven't started them yet you're well behind the curve.

While only two allergens can currently be treated this way, it may be a good option for grass and ragweed allergies not controlled with other medications. Tuck says you should talk with an allergy specialist to see if this option is right for you. If not, allergy shots are a tried and true method of relief.

Avoiding the triggers

To avoid fall allergy symptoms, try to avoid fall allergy triggers. After working in the yard or enjoying the great outdoors, shower, change, and wash your clothes.

Your outdoor work attire should include a NIOSH N95-rated filter mask. Only the N95 mask filters out pollen due to its micro size.

Even if there's a cool autumn breeze at night, keep your windows closed; if your car is parked in a garage, keep the windows rolled up. When spending time outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the annoying allergy symptoms are the result of your immune system protecting itself from what it perceives as an invading substance. It says genetics probably determine whether your body will mount this kind of defense.

Role of histamines

Your body's attack on these invaders will release a chemical called histamine, which inflames the sinuses and eyelids, making them red and swollen. It also triggers the sneezing reflex.

That's why allergies are often treated with an antihistamine, which keeps this chemical in check and makes you feel better – or at least, not as bad.

While many of us self-medicate, it's better to see an allergist. New drugs and treatments may provide better relief than over-the-counter options -- and if you suffer from allergy-related asthma, effective treatment can prevent life-threatening attacks.