Achoo! Dealing with Fall Allergies

As fall rolls around, we remember to get our flu shots and make sure our kids have their back to school vaccinations. We have our homes set up to continue to work and learn from home. But one thing we may have forgotten about, as they creep upon us? Fall allergies!

When most people think of allergies, we think of sneezing and pollen and flowers. We think of springtime. But just because fall is here doesn’t mean allergies go away. Many people experience allergies that last into the fall.

Are Allergies Common?

If you suffer from allergies, you are not alone. 

  • In the United States, over 50 million people have allergies every year. 
  • Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness. 
  • The annual cost of allergies is $18 billion.

What is the Difference Between Seasonal and Perennial Allergies?

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, occurs when your immune system overreacts to something in the environment. 

Seasonal allergies usually occur in the spring, summer, and early fall. Pollens from trees, grass, and weeds or mold spores cause seasonal allergies. 

Perennial allergies can occur year-round. Dust mites, pet hair or dander, mold, or cockroaches cause perennial allergies. 

In addition to the triggers mentioned above, other triggers can cause allergy symptoms. These include cigarette smoking, strong odors, cleaning solution, chlorine, pollutants, and air fresheners. 

The most common allergy symptoms are:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose, mouth, or throat
  • Red, watery eyes with puffy and swollen eyelids
  • Sneezing 
  • Cough 

These symptoms can be much more than a minor inconvenience. Allergy symptoms can affect your concentration, coordination, memory, mood, and sleep. They are responsible for causing missed work or school, car accidents, and injuries. 

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What are the Best Treatments for My Fall Allergies?

First, try to identify your triggers, so you can avoid them whenever possible. 

The good news is that there are plenty of treatments available – over the counter (OTC) or via prescription if required.  

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment for you to try. Not every medicine is safe to take if you have certain medical conditions.  

Be sure to go over any medical conditions you have and all of the medications you take (both prescription and OTC), so your healthcare provider can select the best treatment for you. You can see your primary care provider or an allergist/immunologist (a specialist that treats patients with allergies). 

Oral Antihistamines

Oral antihistamines help symptoms of itching, hives, runny nose, and watery eyes. First-generation antihistamines like Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) can make you drowsy. Newer antihistamines treat the same symptoms. They can still make you feel sleepy but less so. These include:

  • Claritin® (loratadine)
  • Allegra® (fexofenadine)
  • Zyrtec® (cetirizine)
  • Xyzal® (levocetirizine)

If you see the letter D (such as Claritin-D®) after one of these medications, it means that it contains a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine (read more about decongestants below).

Decongestants

If you have a stuffy nose or nasal pressure, you may find relief from a decongestant. Oral decongestants can be found alone—such as in Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, depending on the formulation) or in combination with antihistamines. 

If you have high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, ask your doctor before using a decongestant. 

Nasal Sprays 

There are many prescription and OTC nasal sprays for the treatment of allergies. These include: 

  • Nasal steroids, such as fluticasone or triamcinolone: are helpful for congestion, sneezing, itching, and runny nose. They can be drying, so a saline spray can be used as well (see below).
  • Decongestant nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline: can work quickly and be helpful, but you should not use them for more than 3 days because they can cause rebound congestion (worsening congestion). 
  • Saline spray: A sterile form of saltwater (designed for your nasal passages) can help moisturize dry nasal passageways. You can use a saline spray as often as needed. Some people use a saline rinse instead of sprays. 
  • Other nasal sprays: such as azelastine (antihistamine) and fluticasone/ azelastine are available along with several others.  

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you select the appropriate nasal spray, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Eye Drops 

Many people find relief with a prescription or OTC allergy eye drops since they can help soothe red, swollen, watery, itchy eyes. Some common eye drops include ketotifen and olopatadine. 

Oral Prescription Medicines and Immunotherapy

If you have severe symptoms or OTC medicines do not help, see an allergist. An allergist can evaluate your symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment. This may include oral prescription medicine (or a combination of prescription and OTC treatments) or immunotherapy (such as allergy shots). 

Bottom Line

If you are suffering from fall allergies (or allergies at any time of the year), there are many treatments available to help you feel better. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you select an appropriate product that is safe and effective for you.

References

1. Allergy Facts. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Website. Available at https://acaai.org/news/facts-statistics/allergies Accessed September 12, 2020.

2. Allergic Rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Website. Available at https://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis Accessed September 12, 2020. 

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