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Some fall allergy symptoms mimic those of COVID-19, so seasonal allergy sufferers should follow treatment plans and take precautions to avoid any confusion, an expert says.

 

“A rise in ragweed tends to mark the informal start of the fall allergy season, which typically begins in mid-August,” said Dr. Rachna Shah, an allergist with Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Ill.

Along with ragweed, fall allergens include pollen, mold and grass.

“With COVID-19 in the mix and some of the symptoms overlapping [including congestion, runny nose, headaches and throat irritation], it’s especially important this year to have your preventive allergy treatment plan in place,” Shah said in a Loyola news release.

“Often, when people are feeling well, they will become more lax about following their treatment plans,” she added.

If you have chronic allergies, you should begin seasonal treatment protocols — prescriptions, over-the-counter allergy medications and/or steroid nasal sprays — as soon as possible, “as they may take a week or more to kick in,” Shah advised.

She also noted that because “allergy symptoms can worsen asthma, causing breathing difficulties, it’s important that you have all of your asthma tools. Make sure that your inhaler is up to date, not expired, that you have additional inhalers and refills on hand, and that you are taking preventive measures.”

For example, change the timing of outdoor activities on days when allergen levels are particularly high.

Pollen counts are highest in the beginning of the day — from dawn until 10 a.m.,” Shah said. “Shifting activities to later in the day can help a lot.”

Also, keeping windows closed and/or rinsing off or changing clothes after being outside can help on high allergen days.

If you follow the recommendations and fail to find relief, you may need medical help.

“Patients who are still suffering from allergy symptoms after adhering to their treatment protocols, taking preventive measures and/or modifying daily activities should be evaluated by a physician,” Shah said.

Symptoms of fall allergies may include itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, ear itching or popping, postnasal drip and throat irritation.

— Robert Preidt

Nasal Allergy Attack: Causes, Triggers, Treatments

That sniffling, that sinus pressure, and all that sneezing must be caused by something. The big question is: what?

Nasal congestion from allergies is a common problem. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, there can be many causes. These are known as “allergens,” and they can cause your body’s immune system to over-react. Allergens include

  • ragweed,
  • grass,
  • pet dander,
  • dust mites, and
  • mold.

Although these things are usually harmless, people who have developed allergies to them will find they cause a lot of misery and sometimes lead to serious health risks. In America, more than 50 million people suffer from them each year. That adds up to an annual cost of more than $18 billion.

In the following slides, learn more about nasal allergies, like who’s at risk, why allergic reactions occur, how they affect your health, and how they can be treated.

Allergens: The Invaders

Anaphylaxis

While some allergic reactions are mild and may be restricted to certain parts of the body, anaphylaxis is severe and affects the health of the whole body. Anaphylaxis comes on quickly, and it can be deadly. It causes tissues to release histamine, along with other substances that cause breathing problems and other symptoms like

  • abdominal pain,
  • dizziness,
  • difficulty swallowing,
  • facial swelling, and
  • unconsciousness.

Asthma

Like anaphylaxis, asthma can be life-threatening in severe cases. Asthma often causes your breathing passages to become inflamed and tight, causing symptoms such as wheezing, cough, and shortness of breath.

The relationship between asthma and allergies is complicated. The two conditions seem to be related, as many people with asthma are also prone to symptoms of nasal allergy.

What Are Your Allergy Triggers?

 

It’s easy to come in contact with allergens because they’re potentially everywhere, immersed in the air we breathe both indoors and outdoors. Chasing after dust bunnies, playing with your pet, or just walking out the door during certain seasons of the year can set off your symptoms. An allergic reaction is set in motion by either

  • touching,
  • swallowing, or
  • inhaling

an allergen. Below we discuss two of the most common triggers.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are among the most common allergy triggers. These microscopic creatures live on dead human skin flakes found in household dust. They love warm, humid places, and even immaculate homes have them in the carpet, curtains, upholstered furniture, and stuffed animals.

Pollen

Pollen is the reason for seasonal allergies. It is carried in the air and helps grasses, weeds, and trees fertilize and spread. Pollen prevalence can be predicted by the season, but pollen counts vary from year to year, and from region to region. By checking local weather forecasts, you can easily discover the current pollen count.

Exposure to triggers may cause postnasal drip, allergies, and symptoms involving the lungs, ears, sinuses, stomach lining, or skin.

Your Body’s Reaction to Allergens

 

Once an allergen enters your body, your immune system reacts and starts making antibodies. Antibodies can be so specific that they only target certain types of pollen, for example. When the immune system detects an allergen, more of the proper antibodies are produced.

The antibodies set to work searching for the offending allergen and eventually get rid of them.

Releasing Histamines

 

When antibodies find an allergen, they begin to alert mast cells. Mast cells are blood cells that release more chemicals, including histamine. Histamine causes inflammation, meaning small blood vessels become leaky. This causes fluid to escape, which leads to

  • runny noses,
  • nasal swelling, and
  • congestion.

Are Allergic Reactions Hereditary?

 

Like many other issues related to your health, whether or not you become allergic tends to be determined by your parents. When one parent is prone to allergic reactions, a child’s chances of getting them stands at about 50%, and when both parents are affected, the child’s risk goes up to 80%.

With that said, anyone can experience allergic reactions, regardless of race, age, gender, or any other status. Children tend to be affected more than adults, however.

Whether someone develops an allergic reaction can depend on how much they’ve been exposed to a particular trigger. Some allergies can take years to develop.

Allergy Prevention

 

Because there’s no way to completely cure allergies, the best way to find relief and restore your health is to find ways to prevent allergic reactions. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid allergy triggers when you can.
  • Check pollen or mold reports before going outside.
  • If levels are high, think about wearing a face mask.
  • During allergy season, shower before going to bed so you don’t go to sleep with pollen in your hair.
  • Keep windows closed and run the air conditioner.
  • Vacuum twice a week to cut down on allergens.

Nasal Sprays and Other Medicine

 

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine can help control symptoms of allergic reactions. Such medicines include antihistamines and decongestants. These medications may be administered in different forms, such as pills or capsules, liquids, eye drops, or nasal sprays.

OTC allergy nasal spray may be enough to alleviate your symptoms. If not, prescription nasal sprays for allergies are available.

Talk with your pharmacist or doctor about what is the best nasal spray for allergies for you.

When to Call an Allergist

 

Allergies can be notoriously difficult to identify. If you can’t say for sure what’s causing them, or if they’re severe, an allergist can help. Allergists and immunologists are medically trained to identify and treat your symptoms.

The doctor will take your medical history and may perform tests. These tests expose you to possible allergens in a systematic way to see which allergens may cause a reaction. Depending on your allergic symptoms, your doctor may suggest prescription medications or allergy shots.

Your best resource for information about allergy nasal sprays, the best allergy medicine for postnasal drip, over the counter nasal sprays for allergies, and other kinds of allergy treatments is your allergist.

Pictures of Allergy Relief Tips at Home: AC Filters, Electronic Air Cleaners, and More

Put Out the Welcome Mat

 

Many allergy triggers, like pollen, move into your home on your shoes. Ask your friends and family to wipe them before they come inside. Choose a rubber mat that’s easy to clean. Better yet, ask visitors to leave their shoes at the door.

Clean the Air With HEPA Filters

 

t can capture 99% of the tiny particles that trigger your allergies. It works best for removing pet dander and pollen, but not as well for dust mites. Look for units tested by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers that list the clean air delivery rate (CADR). Make sure the number is at least two-thirds of the room’s square feet.

Upgrade Your Furnace Filter

 

Try pleated paper filters with a MERV (efficiency) rating of 7 to 13. They can be almost as effective as a HEPA filter. Or go for an electrostatic one that uses charged fibers to trap allergens. Change filters every 3 months to keep your furnace working well. A more expensive option is a whole-house HEPA or electrostatic filter unit that’s added to your heating and air-conditioning system.

Electronic Air Cleaners

 

These machines don’t use filters or fans. Instead, they change the electric charge on polluting particles. Some of these products, though, release ozone, which can sometimes make your allergies worse.

You can move them from room to room, put one on your furnace, or mount it on your ceiling.

Use a Neti Pot

 

You can ease your allergy symptoms if you clean out the passageways of your nose. Fill the pot with lukewarm salt water made with sterile or distilled water. Or use boiled tap water after it cools down. Tilt your head over the sink, then pour the liquid into one nostril and let it drain out of the other. You can also use a bulb syringe or rinse bottle.

OTC Allergy Medications

 

They come in pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays. Antihistamine pills give you relief from sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. Decongestants work for a stuffy nose. Try antihistamine drops if your eyes are itchy.

Allergy nasal sprays prevent sneezing and runny nose. Decongestant nasal sprays aren’t the same thing. If you use them for more than 3 days, they can make your stuffiness worse.

Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

 

Dust mites — tiny creatures that live in your bed, sofa, and carpet — can trigger your allergies. They thrive in warm, moist air, so you can fight back if you keep your indoor humidity low. But too-dry air can irritate your nose and make your symptoms worse. Strike a balance by making the humidity in your home between 30% and 50%. You can monitor it with a device called a hygrometer.

Remake Your Bed

 

You can avoid some allergy attacks if you keep dust mites out of your mattresses and pillows. Choose pillows and comforters filled with man-made material that’s less likely to trigger symptoms, instead of mite-friendly feathers. And cut back on throw pillows.

Cover Up

 

Surround your pillows, mattress, and box springs with allergen-proof covers. Prices can range from $20-$150, depending on your bed size.

Upgrade Your Dust Cloth

 

Trade in your old one, which stirs up allergy-causing particles while you dust, for a microfiber cloth. Unlike a cotton towel or an old T-shirt, it has fibers with an electrostatic charge that attracts and traps dust. It’s OK to put it in the washing machine. You can get microfiber mitts for hard to reach or delicate items, and special wipes for electronics.

Wear A Mask and Gloves

 

Housework and yard work stir up a lot of allergy triggers, from dust and pet dander to pollen and leaf mold. Keep problems away with an inexpensive safety mask. Use gloves when you work outside, or indoors when you handle household cleaners.

Use a HEPA Vacuum

Vacuuming once a week can help allergy-proof your home, but standard machines can stir dust and allergy triggers into the air. Instead, you can trap them if you use a vacuum with a replaceable HEPA filter or a double bag.

Steam Cleaning

It helps get rid of dust mites in carpets and upholstered furniture. You can rent a steamer at a grocery or home improvement store, or buy your own. Some manufacturers offer cleaning solutions that are specially made to control allergy triggers. Vacuum after you steam clean to get rid of dead mites.

Wipe Out Mold

It loves warm, wet places like the kitchen and bathroom. To get rid of it, you have to clean, disinfect, and dry. Scrub away with soap, water, and a stiff brush. Disinfect with a mold-killing product that has 5% chlorine bleach, or use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Check for leaks, and use an exhaust fan to keep it from coming back.

Pet Beds & Shampoos

You can scale back your symptoms if you keep your contact with pet dander to a minimum. Use a mild shampoo to wash your animal often. If your cat doesn’t like baths, at least wipe his fur with a damp washcloth. You can also buy pet wipes. Use plastic beds that can be wiped down, or wash the bedding in hot water at least once a week.

Buy Washable Toys

Stuffed toys collect dander and dust mites as well as dirt. Check the labels when you buy them to make sure it’s OK to wash them. Toss them in the washing machine with hot water every week. Store them on shelves or in a hanging net, but not on the bed. Wipe down plastic or wooden toys with a damp cloth.

 

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