How can I help avoid allergies during the fall?

Big piles of leaves, mulch piles—these are places where we see a lot of mold growth, especially when it’s damp. These would be areas you would want to avoid or eliminate if possible, to minimize your exposure to spores.

I also recommend keeping windows and doors closed, even on those nice fall days. Turning the AC on could help filter some of that pollen out of the home. I’m also a fan of sprays or rinses like the Neti pot. Using those at the end of the day when you’re done being outdoors may help remove some of the pollen from the nose. Changing clothes and jumping in the shower can also reduce your exposure throughout the night.

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, MD
Allergist & Immunologist

Here are some simple and practical allergy tips to help you start fighting fall allergies:

Learn the symptoms. Each year patients have the same question: How can I tell whether I have an allergy or a cold/sinus infection? In general, cold symptoms come on rapidly, while allergies occur with a pattern of exposure (after dusting, raking leaves or pet exposure). Also, "itchiness" is often present with allergies.

Remember your allergy medications won't work if you have sinusitis or a bad head cold. After a careful examination and some simple tests, your doctor can help determine whether it's an allergy or cold/sinus infection.

Watch what you eat. It's not just what's in the air that can wreak havoc on your seasonal allergies. What you eat can have an impact as well. Watch out for fresh foods including melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, banana, chamomile tea and zucchini. Up to one third of ragweed allergy sufferers can actually experience worsening of their symptoms (itchiness of the mouth, tongue and throat) with these foods. Although echinacea may be used to fight "colds and viruses," it can worsen your seasonal allergies if you are sensitive to ragweed and weeds, as a result of a cross-reaction.

Minimize indoor allergens. As you spend more time indoors during fall, you may experience a worsening of your allergies. Exposure to indoor allergens, particularly pets, mold spores and dust mites can ratchet up your suffering. Ten percent to 15 percent of allergic individuals are allergic to their pets and may develop respiratory symptoms during the early to mid-fall as a result of increased indoor exposure. Have a plan in place, such as a High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) type vacuum and/or HEPA central and/or room air purification, and possibly a dehumidifier if your symptoms are triggered by mildew and mold conditions.

Know your indoor moisture levels. Monitor your indoor humidity level (amount of moisture in the air) and attempt to keep it 50 percent or lower to avoid triggering mold and dust mite allergies. A low-cost hygrometer (less than $10) can help ensure optimal indoor humidity levels in your home. Too many indoor houseplants can also add to increased indoor humidity as a result of added moisture and molds.

Wash it out. It's important to wash any fall or winter clothing that has been in storage where dust and molds may have accumulated on them. Wash them thoroughly before wearing them.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.