How Long Do Fall Allergies Last
As summer comes to a close, so do your allergies. The plants are going dormant for winter, and it’s time to break out the allergy medicine cabinet. But what about fall allergies? Are they as prevalent as spring allergies or just short-lived like the rest of the year?
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergies affect more than 23 million Americans every year, with hay fever symptoms lasting from two weeks to several months. That means that most people experience some form of allergic reaction at least once a year. And while there is no cure for allergies — only treatments for their symptoms — ACAAI says that if you’re suffering through an allergy attack, you should know that many people who have allergies suffer from them all year round.
The reason why can be traced back to when you were a kid. Children are exposed to allergens early on because parents often give them these substances to help their babies breathe better. This exposure can then trigger an immune system response later into adulthood. As soon as kids go outside after being cooped up inside all summer long, they’re bombarded by pollens, pet dander, mold spores and other airborne particles that can cause allergic reactions.
But even though fall allergies tend to run shorter than those experienced in the spring, they still occur frequently. According to the ACAAI, nearly 30 percent of its members reported having symptoms related to allergies during the fall and winter. These symptoms included stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, coughing and congestion.
So how does this happen? Pollen counts increase during the warmer months but decrease significantly during cooler seasons due to changes in weather patterns. Ragweed accounts for roughly 70 percent of all U.S. pollinosis cases, according to the National Institute of Health. The ragweed plant thrives in sunny areas where temperatures range between 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and 80 degrees F (27 degrees C). Its leaves, flowers and seeds contain a protein called histamine, which causes inflammation in tissues by increasing blood flow and narrowing airways. When ragweed blooms, it releases massive amounts of tiny pollen grains that can irritate the nasal passages and lungs of susceptible individuals.
Allergic reactions to ragweed vary widely depending on the person affected. Some people don’t notice any symptoms at all; others may experience headaches, sinus pressure, wheezing and difficulty breathing. If the allergy is severe enough, it could lead to asthma attacks and even death. And since many people spend hours outdoors during the fall, it’s not surprising that this group tends to account for the majority of fall allergy sufferers.
Other common allergens include trees, grasses, weeds and cockroaches. People with allergies also may develop eczema, hives, red rashes, sores and blisters. While most people recover quickly from an acute allergic reaction, chronic allergies can take years off your life. They can also cause complications such as eye swelling, skin infections and pneumonia.
Even though it seems like allergies never end, they do eventually subside. How long allergies persist depends largely on the severity of the condition. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with perennial allergic rhinitis, meaning your allergies don’t come and go, you’ll likely need medical treatment throughout adult life. On the other hand, if you have seasonal allergies, you may be able to treat yourself without medication. Typically, symptoms begin around April 1 each year, peak in September and continue until the next April. By mid-October, symptoms usually decline and cease altogether in November or December.
If you suspect that you might have allergies, consult your doctor immediately. He or she can prescribe medications to relieve your symptoms and teach you ways to avoid triggers. You can also try using over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants. It’s important to remember that certain types of medications, including alcohol, aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, should never be used by people who have allergies or asthma.
While allergies are unpleasant and uncomfortable, they aren’t dangerous. However, you should always be aware of warning signs that indicate an imminent allergic reaction. Symptoms include hives, blurred vision, trouble breathing, chest pain, nausea and dizziness. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if necessary.
In addition to taking preventative measures against allergies, you can also use natural remedies to reduce their effects. Here are three simple steps you can take right now to improve your chances of minimizing allergies:
Use a humidifier. Dry indoor environments are known to aggravate allergies, causing the mucous membranes in your nose to swell. Humidifiers can combat dryness by adding moisture to the air.
Avoid cigarette smoke. Smoking increases allergies because it constricts airflow. Cigarette smokers should stop smoking completely.
Keep windows closed. Airborne pollutants and allergens can enter your home through open window screens and doors. Closely seal cracks under doorframes, behind shutters and storm windows, and keep curtains drawn whenever possible. Use fans and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture from the air.
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