Your Fall Allergy Game Plan

Your Fall Allergy Game Plan

You know the routine: nasal congestion, constantly running nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, throat irritation…it’s fall allergy time.

The medical term for your upper airway discomfort is allergic rhinitis, says David Yen, MD, chief of the otolaryngology (ENT) section for St. Luke’s University Health Network, and it’s typically triggered by inhaling substances that activate your body’s immune system.

In our area, ragweed is a significant culprit and will remain so until the first hard frost. “It’s similar in appearance to goldenrod,” Dr. Yen says. “If you’ve ever complained of ‘hay fever,’ you’re really having an allergic reaction to ragweed pollen.”

As the autumn months progress, mold can be more prevalent, too. “Falling leaves create piles of moist organic matter. As it decomposes, mold can develop and act as allergens,” he says. 

Here, Dr. Yen suggests four ways to reduce exposure to allergens and breathe easier this fall.

1. “When you’re outdoors [especially when doing yard work], wear a mask over your mouth and nose,” he says. They’re available in many styles and types. Afterward, get a quick shower and wash your clothes; while a mask may keep you from inhaling the allergens, they’ll still stick to your skin and clothes.   

2. Nasal irrigation can also help because it helps clear away irritants. “This preventative method is underused,” Dr. Yen says. “You can use a neti pot, or a more modern version that uses a squeeze bottle.”

3. Despite our best efforts, we may still end up suffering. In those cases, Dr. Yen says intra-nasal steroid sprays are the most effective medication for fall allergy symptoms. “They’re available over-the-counter, which reflects how safe they are,” he says. “But remember, these medications take time to become effective, so be sure to use them consistently—every day, if necessary.

4. If symptoms persist after all this, it might be wise to arrange for an allergy test. “Then you’ll know whether you really have an inhalant allergy, or if your symptoms are brought on by other factors in your environment,” says Dr. Yen. 

For more information, or to arrange an appointment, contact Bethlehem ENT Associates, 610-866-5555.

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