Nowhere to hide? Fall allergy season is here

Most of us associate seasonal allergies with springtime, but just as many people endure months of congestion and itchiness during the fall months. Both the fall season and the spring season are a threat if you suffer from allergies yet, both are very different. The fall culprits are ragweed pollen and molds whereas grasses and blooming flowers create misery in April. The fall allergy season typically runs from late August until the first hard autumn frost.

When you are talking about allergies, you can break them into two big categories: those that are present year-round and those that present during certain seasons. Seasonal allergies are mostly due to pollen, and what pollinates in the fall is ragweed. Airborne ragweed pollen is one of the greatest culprits for those who suffer. Did you know that pollen can travel 400 miles before settling in your nostrils? A single ragweed plan generates over 1 billion pollen particles.

Simple ways to minimize fall allergies include:

Avoid outdoor activities 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and on breezy days as well (peak pollen period).

Close windows whenever possible.

Keep your pets indoors or bathe them frequently. Cats and dogs are experts at transporting pollen into the house.

Apply chilled, preservative-free artificial tears for itchy, irritated eyes.

Change your clothing when you are coming in from the outside.

Testing for allergies

A skin test is used to determine which allergens you are allergic to. With a skin test, the doctor places a tiny amount of the allergen on your skin, usually on your back or forearm, and then pricks or scratches the skin underneath. If you are allergic to it, you will get a small, raised bump that itches like a mosquito bite. Sometimes a blood test may be used to diagnose allergies.

Your initial consultation usually takes about two hours, but with the skin testing we will have the results before you leave the office. Allergy testing is covered by most insurance, but it is always recommended that you call you insurance carrier to inquire about your coverage. Testing can be done in our Fort Dodge office and also at our satellite clinics in Humboldt and Storm Lake.

Treatment options

Your first line of defense against allergies is over-the-counter nasal antihistamines and other medications that treat your specific symptoms. But the best way to fight seasonal allergies over the long-term is to see an allergist for an accurate diagnosis, and perhaps immunotherapy or allergy shots. Allergy shots routinely expose patients to their allergens a little bit at a time, eventually offering long-term remission of allergy symptoms.

There are many medications you can use to treat your allergy symptoms:

Prescription nasal sprays – reduce inflammation in your nose.

Antihistamines – help stop sneezing, sniffling, and itching.

Decongestants – help clear mucus out of your nose.

Allergy shots – take longer to work but also reduce symptoms for longer.

Allergy drops

You can buy some allergy medications without a prescription, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose the right one. Decongestant nasal sprays, for example, should only be used for three days. If you use them longer, you may actually get more congested. And if you have high blood pressure, some allergy drugs may not be right for you.

Don’t suffer in silence

If you have symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, or itchy and watery eyes that get worse in the fall, you probably have an outdoor fall allergy.

Eighty percent of people with seasonal allergies complain about these symptoms as well as problems with sleeping, being tired, having poor concentration, and decreased productivity at school or work.

Allergies can have a huge impact on quality of life, and it’s completely unnecessary misery because treatment is available. Many who suffer from allergy symptoms can be helped with current medical treatments; they simply need to get tested to detect possible allergies. Don’t continue to suffer, talk to your doctor today about treating your allergies.

Dr. Francisco Peralta is board certified in allergy/immunology and internal medicine. He is affiliated with UnityPoint Clinic – Allergy in Fort Dodge.