Fall can be tough for people who have seasonal allergies — and this year could be particularly rough. Ragweed is the biggest trigger in the fall, releasing pollen from August until October. Extreme weather patterns like lots of rain and high temperatures create a perfect pollen storm, and that's why some are predicting a brutal season for allergy sufferers.
"The last few years, the trend has been for higher ragweed counts, and part of that is the longer season and general climate warming," Stanley Fineman, MD, an allergist and former president of the ACAAI, told WebMD for its forecast. "We know that plants like water and heat, and it's been a hot summer with a high amount of rain. We anticipate the pollen will be significant this year."
Ragweed pollen can travel for hundreds of miles on the wind, says WebMD, so you can be exposed even if it doesn't grow where you live. Other fall offenders include various weeds, mold and dust mites.
How can you find relief? Here are some ways to beat fall allergies:
1. Avoid your triggers. Stay inside with windows and doors closed when pollen is at its peak, typically late morning and midday. Keep an eye on pollen counts so you know when it's best to avoid going outside.
2. Don't bring pollen inside. When you do go outdoors, limit how much pollen sticks around. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests showering and washing your hair before going to bed in order to keep pollen off your bedding. Be sure to wash your sheets in hot, soapy water weekly. When you come indoors, change and wash your clothes. And when you're outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair. Limit contact with pets that are outside (or give them a bath too!)
3. Ease your symptoms. Allergies often mean sneezing, sniffling, stuffiness and itching. Depending on your symptoms, there are several over-the-counter options including steroid nasal sprays that can ease inflammation in your nose, antihistamines to help with sneezing, sniffling and itching and decongestants for stuffiness, says WebMD. Be sure to read the directions; decongestant nasal sprays, for example, should be used no more than three days in a row in most cases.
4. See your doctor. Your health care provider can offer advice on medications and allergy avoidance. For severe allergies, she may suggest immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops that can be taken over a few years, says the Mayo Clinic.
5. Keep indoor air clean. Use air conditioning in your car and in your house to avoid breathing in pollen. Use high-efficiency filters in your home and change them regularly. Consider a HEPA filter in your bedroom when you sleep and clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter to trap even the tiniest of allergen particles, suggests the Mayo Clinic. If mold is a trigger, use a dehumidifier to keep your home dry.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in September 2012 and has been updated with new information.