Most people associate allergies with the spring and summer months, but they can affect you throughout the year. Hay fever occurs anytime plants release pollen, and for people living in the Midwest and East Coast – including right here in Kennett Square – that means the fall, thanks to the proliferation of ragweed in these parts of the country.
Ragweed, from the genus Ambrosia, is the biggest source of fall allergies in the United States. It is responsible for about half of all cases of allergic rhinitis this time of year.
Unlike many plants that bloom earlier in the year, ragweed holds off until August, when it releases pollen into the air. Because these grains are very fine and light, when dispersed by the wind they can travel hundreds of miles and remain airborne for days. Pollen counts peak in September, but can last well into November, depending on weather conditions. They are highest on warm, windy days, particularly between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) associated with ragweed include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchiness of the eyes and throat, and hives. Some individuals experience oral allergy syndrome, a type of food allergy associated with hay fever. This causes itching, burning, and swelling in the mouth and throat when certain foods are consumed. Symptoms are most often triggered by bananas, cantaloupe, melons, beans, potatoes, celery, and cucumbers.
Ragweed allergies are typically treated with over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroid sprays. For those whose symptoms are severe, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be recommended as a long-term solution.
Ragweed isn’t the only type of allergy to occur in the fall months. The cooler, wet weather that often accompanies this change in seasons can trigger the growth of mold spores.
Those with mold allergies experience immune system reactions whenever mold spores are inhaled. Symptoms are similar to those that occur with other types of allergies and include a stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, wheezing, cough and postnasal drip. Some people develop a rash or hives. Mold allergies can trigger asthma attacks in those who are susceptible, including children.
Molds, a fungus that thrives in moist and dark places, are common throughout the U.S. and can be found both indoors and out. Not all molds cause allergic reactions, and not everybody who breathes in mold spores will experience symptoms. Those who come into contact with mold, such as farmers or loggers, and who live in moist or humid climates or live and work in buildings with excess moisture or poor ventilation are at the most risk of developing mold allergies.
Treatment for mold allergies involves the same medications used for other seasonal allergies. If OTC drugs are ineffective, many people have found relief with Singulair, a medication available by prescription.
Regardless of whether you’re suffering from hay fever or mold allergies, relief is available. The best thing to do is to contact your Kennett Square ear, nose, and throat specialist to make an appointment for an allergy test. Once the source of your symptoms is identified, treatment can begin.