As the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, allergies affect more than 50 million Americans. They’re also on the rise, meaning an ever-growing number of people develop allergies with each passing year.
Although every allergy problem can be aggravating in its own unique way, seasonal allergies are particularly exasperating. You’re living a normal, symptom-free life when a sudden (but often expected) shift in wind, temperature, rainfall, or humidity causes an explosion of airborne allergens that leave you with watery, irritated eyes, a stuffy nose, an itchy throat, wheezing, and a chronic cough.
Many people consider spring — with its blooming trees, sweeping warm winds, and increased rainfall — the prime allergy season. And while it’s true that the period from early March to summer can be the worst time of year for many seasonal allergy sufferers, each season presents its own allergy-related challenges.
Here in northern Virginia, extensive rain over the summer led to excessive weed pollen and high mold counts, causing major allergy and asthma flare-ups in many of our patients. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and keep your symptoms under control.
Track pollen and mold counts
One of the best ways to keep fall allergy and asthma symptoms in check is by avoiding or minimizing your exposure to the allergens that bother you most. An easy way to do this is by keeping track of daily mold and ragweed pollen counts in and around the Leesburg area (or wherever you happen to be). Many national weather bureaus offer local daily pollen and mold counts, as does the National Allergy Bureau.
Limit your outdoor activities
Heading out for a fall colors nature walk may be a coveted activity at this time of year, but if you’re allergic to ragweed pollen or mold, you’d be better off going on a scenic drive in the car — particularly when airborne allergen counts are high.
To avoid exposing yourself to high pollen or mold counts, stay indoors whenever possible, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when temperature and wind factors tend to exacerbate the problem. And keep your windows closed at all times whether you’re at home, at the office, or in your car.
Shower at night
If you typically shower in the morning before you head out the door, simply changing the time of day that you bathe can help you manage your seasonal allergies more effectively.
Showering at night helps wash away any pollen or mold that may have collected on your skin or hair throughout the day, so you won’t inadvertently bring your allergens to bed with you. If you happen to spend a lot of time outside, it can be helpful to shower as soon as you arrive home, even if it’s not yet the end of the day.
To keep pollen and mold contamination to a minimum, it’s a good idea to change your clothes after spending a significant amount of time outdoors. You’ll also want to wash your clothes after each wear (forget about wearing your favorite jeans two or three times between each wash) and wash your jackets and other outerwear frequently (once or twice a week, rather than once a month or seasonally).
Change your furnace filter
If you’ve been living with seasonal allergies for a while, you may already know that keeping the air conditioner (fitted with a HEPA filter) on, even when it’s not particularly hot outside, is one of the best ways to keep mold and pollen out of your indoor spaces.
But as the fall continues to usher in ever-colder weather, it’s time to swap the A/C for heat. Before you make the switch, however, make sure you change the filter on your furnace first. To ensure high-quality indoor air, look for a MERV 11 or 12 high-efficiency media filter. Replace your filter every 1-3 months, and have your furnace inspected, cleaned, and serviced every six months.
When possible, plan ahead
If you take medication to keep your pollen or mold allergy under control, keep a close eye on upcoming airborne allergen predictions. When the local allergen forecast calls for high pollen or mold counts, start taking your medicine a week or two before the upsurge is expected to hit.
Another way to minimize your seasonal allergies throughout the fall and winter months is by protecting yourself against the common cold and flu viruses that are so prevalent at this time of year. Besides making any minor allergy symptoms feel far worse, catching a cold or the flu can also trigger frequent or severe asthma attacks.
To minimize your chances of getting sick this season, wash your hands often, and get this year’s flu shot as soon as you can.
To learn all the ways you can keep seasonal allergies and asthma under control, call our office in Leesburg, Virginia today, or use our convenient online booking feature to schedule an appointment with our specialists at Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute any time.