Now’s the time to get in front of fall allergy symptoms

One day you can breathe easy and enjoy long walks outdoors and fresh breezes through open windows. The next day you’re hit with headaches, sneezing, an itchy throat, watery eyes and a nose that’s running and congested. Fall allergies can be challenging, but experts agree a proactive approach makes a difference.

“Ragweed pollen comes from 17 species of plants and typically peaks mid-September,” explained Dr. Luz Fonacier, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “This type of pollen can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, which affects up to 23 million children and adults in the United States. Taking action now to create a management plan for fall allergies can help you manage symptoms.”

Last year during fall allergy season, many people were working and studying at home due to the pandemic. They had more flexibility controlling allergy triggers because they could stay indoors more often and use a mask when out and about. As restrictions lift and people go back to work and school, it’s important to prepare for seasonal allergies ahead of time.

The experts at ACAAI recommend three important steps to prepare yourself for fall allergy season:

1. Meet with an allergist

It’s smart to schedule an appointment with your allergist before peak pollen levels hit. This helps ensure you have a plan that works for your needs before you start feeling symptoms. For kids heading back to school, meeting with an allergist before school starts ensures prescriptions are up to date and asthma is controlled, and these plans can be relayed to school administrators and nurses.

“Allergists are the best trained medical professionals to treat allergies and asthma,” Fonacier said. “They are among the only specialists who don’t treat just one part of the body. They treat your immune system, including nasal passages, skin, eyes, stomach and more.”

2. Make a plan

Talk with your allergist about preparations for fall allergies. In general, ragweed allergies can be treated with antihistamines and other allergy medications. Ask your allergist about getting ahead of any allergies by starting your medication two weeks before you expect symptoms to be at their worst.

If you have more severe allergies, treatments that start much sooner may be required. One option is immunotherapy shots to help your body build resistance. Another option is prescription tablets that dissolve under your tongue, which are started 12 weeks before the beginning of ragweed season.

3. Stay informed

Visit acaai.org to learn more about ragweed allergies and other seasonal allergies you may have. It’s important to know which pollens you are sensitive to and then check pollen counts regularly by searching online.

During ragweed season in late summer and early fall, pollen levels are often highest in the morning. Keep your windows closed at all times, both at home and in the car. Remember that pollen can be tracked into your home on your clothes, shoes and hair, so change after being outside and shower before going to bed.

“It’s necessary to stay ahead of allergies by thinking about treatment and other proactive measures in advance,” said Fonacier. “Act now and you’ll help yourself feel your best when pollen levels climb.”

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