For Fall allergy sufferers, the late summer and early fall bring weed pollen allergies. In the DC area, Ragweed is one of the main pollens in the air. But there are other (less well known, but equally important) weeds that can affect allergy sufferers in the fall. In addition to weed pollens, we see a second peak of grass pollens in the fall, the first and major peak taking place in the spring. And with the decaying leaves and rain, we will see an increase in mold pollens. So you can see there is plenty of reason for fall allergy sufferers to feel miserable.
Regardless of the trigger – whether it’s a pollen, pet, mold, or a dust mite—allergy symptoms are the same. The number one symptom of allergy is itching. Patients will often complain of itchy, water eyes, runny and stuffy nose, post nasal drip, and sneezing. Some patients get eye swelling and skin itching, and in some cases, the allergen can trigger asthma as well.
Allergic Rhinitis is a significant cause of lost school and work days in the U.S. Remember you do not need to suffer! See you doctor, let her hear your story. There are measures we can take to help you. Many of the medications we recommend have are available over the counter. For example, antihistamines such as Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are all over the counter. If you are looking for these meds, you may want to consider the generic option, which will likely be less expensive. Two nasal steroid sprays have also recently gone OTC (over the counter), Flonase and Nasacort. However, all medications have side effects, and you should always discuss with your physician the option of taking these meds. Additionally, remember to tell all of your doctors you are taking them, so everyone who is caring for your health is up to date on your medications.
For certain patients, medications—even a combination of medications—will not fully control symptoms. In this case, if a patient is not well enough controlled on meds, we can consider the option of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is also known as allergy shots.” Immunotherapy is a process of desensitization, in which we give tiny amounts of the allergen in an injection, and over time, we increase the amount of allergen that we give. This allows your body to see the allergen as a friend and not foe! Instead of hyperreacting to the allergen, your body will learn to tolerate the allergenic exposure.
If you find that you don’t feel well the same time of the year each year, you may actually have allergy. Your doctor can help you sort this out, and if needed, can refer you to an allergist for testing; we can then see exactly what triggers you, and tailor your plan to your specific needs.
I wish you a safe, fun, and allergy-free Fall!
Rachel Schreiber, MD, FAAAAI