Fall yardwork can stir up allergies, but there are ways to reduce the risk of flare-ups, an ear, nose and throat specialist says.
"Know your triggers and avoid those triggers," said Dr. Do-Yeon Cho, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"First, find out if you're allergic to any seasonal pollens," Cho said in a university news release. "Your ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist] or allergist can easily figure out allergic culprits by doing simple skin tests or blood work."
Unlike sniffles caused by cold viruses, allergy-related itchy eyes and sneezes stem from an immune system reaction to certain substances.
If you have seasonal allergies, limit outdoor activities during that specific season. Wear a mask if doing yardwork. And change clothing and shower as soon as you get indoors because pollen and other allergens can cling to clothing, Cho advised.
The most common triggers for fall allergies? Pollen from weeds and mold spores, according to Cho.
"You may think of mold growing in your basement or bathroom, but mold spores also like wet spots outside with fall rain. Piles of damp leaves are ideal breeding grounds for mold," he explained.
Different seasons pose particular allergy triggers. "Especially in the fall, smoke from fireplaces, candy ingredients, pine trees and wreaths could be triggers," Cho warned.
Dust mites are another fall allergy trigger. They can become airborne when you dust at home or when the furnace is turned on for the first time in the fall, he said.
If you're allergic to pollen, limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high, Cho suggested.
Also, use HEPA air filters during allergy season to reduce exposure to allergens. And it's also a good idea to start taking allergy medication before pollen season begins, Cho said.
Cleanliness also is important in preventing allergic reactions.
"Bathe and shampoo daily before going to bed," Cho said. "Wash bedding in hot, soapy water, and dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line."
Over-the-counter medications, such as nasal steroid sprays and oral/nasal antihistamines, often help treat fall allergies.
"Nasal saline irrigations can also help maintain the health of your nose by improving clearance of mucous and allergens," Cho said.
And when all else fails? "Allergy shots are another potential cure for certain allergies and can be useful in controlling allergy symptoms when avoidance measures and medications provide incomplete relief," Cho advised.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on seasonal allergies.
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