Summer has faded and falling leaves cover your lawn. So why are you still coughing and sneezing?
Welcome to fall allergy season, a season that still has blooming plant life and other factors that may affect allergies, including ragweed, mold and dust mites.
UK HealthCare's Asthma, Allergy and Sinus Clinic is the official mold spore and pollen station for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tracking the prevalence of allergens in the area. Lexington often has one of the highest pollen counts in the nation, and ragweed is the biggest offender.
Ragweed is a yellow flower that begins pollination in August and blooms until the first frost. Wind can carry ragweed pollen up to 100 miles, so even city dwellers aren't immune. Leaf raking is an annual fall ritual, but damp piles of leaves harbor allergy-causing mold. And dust mites sit in your vents until you turn your furnace on. All of these allergens cause misery in the form of itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, sniffles and coughs.
Many people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to the plants that pollinate in the fall. The good news is that there is no difference in treatment for fall allergies. Steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants and over the counter drugs all help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Because allergy symptoms are similar to the cold virus, many people don't realize they have allergies.
Both illnesses cause runny noses, sneezing, congestion, and/or throat cough. But chills, fevers and body aches usually accompany colds, while allergies can be characterized by "allergic shiners" — dark circles around the eyes that are caused by increased blood flow to the sinuses. Colds last 7-10 days while allergies are typically seasonal and can therefore last longer. Keeping a diary of your symptoms might help you determine whether they arrive about the same time each year. If you're still unsure, an allergist can help determine whether a cold virus or an allergic response causes your symptoms.
Board certified allergists perform tests to identify your allergy triggers, suggest ways to reduce the amount of allergens in your home or at work, and set up a treatment schedule including maintenance medicine and immunotherapy.
Good precautions to take to avoid fall allergies are to stay inside with the windows closed, dust your house frequently and wear a mask while doing yard work. Filtering the air in your home can also help. A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your heating system or cheesecloth stretched over your vents can reduce the number of allergens circulating in your home.
Many people have lived with allergies all their lives. You wouldn't guess at your blood pressure or cholesterol. Why guess at your allergies? Allergy treatment by a board certified specialist can help you enjoy fall activities symptom-free.