Spring and fall allergies have the same symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, headache, sinus pain and pressure, and increased asthma symptoms. However, triggers differ and, according to ENT & Allergy Associates‘ Dr. Milo F. Vassallo, airborne allergens can worsen in fall.
“There can be far more culprits in fall,” says Vassallo, a pediatric and adult allergist and immunologist who practices in New York. “Overall, in spring, outdoor allergens are mainly tree pollens and, in the fall, it’s weed pollens, like ragweed. That’s also complicated by molds, which [grow in] early fall’s warm, wet weather.”
No matter what the season, for most people, dealing with allergies means avoiding triggers. “Limit exposure,” Vassallo recommends. “In the early fall, keep windows closed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the yard, wear a mask to rake leaves.”
And don’t forget about indoor allergens.
“In late fall, when the weather gets colder, people close their windows and seal up their home. They pull out old comforters and quilts. Then, the dust mite problem escalates, and even sensitivities to their pets worsen. As I often say, people are potentially sleeping with the enemy.”
One piece of good news for allergy sufferers is that cold weather stops the outdoor triggers: “By first frost,” Vassallo says, “weed pollens and molds have ceased.”
Long-term, though, the ragweed season might be lengthening due to a rise in temperatures and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, says the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
“It’s complex; there are multiple factors,” says Vassallo. “But unfortunately, it’s not looking good for allergies in general.”
Allergy treatment varies from over-the-counter medicines to ease symptoms to sitting down with an allergist to create a treatment plan, such as immunotherapy, for long-term relief. Immunotherapy works in a similar way to homeopathy.
“Shots can prevent allergies to airborne allergens very effectively and are an excellent long-term preventative solution,” says Vassallo. “We start with extraordinarily small amounts of the pollen and build to a therapeutic dose. It retrains the immune system and people can start looking forward to fall.”