You may think you can't tell the difference between the symptoms caused by spring, summer and fall allergies. They all usually involve sneezing, sniffling, itchy eyes and a runny nose. And while symptoms for each allergy season may be similar, the treatment can look very different, particularly if immunotherapy is an option.
Immunotherapy, in the form of allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets, can make a huge difference for allergy sufferers. Both allergy shots and tablets work by changing your immune system. They decrease some cells, chemicals, and antibodies in your system that cause allergy symptoms and increase others that improve health. Allergy shots and tablets allow you to encounter your allergens without having a reaction."
Todd Mahr, MD, allergist, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. Ragweed usually starts releasing pollen with cool nights and warm days in August and can last into October or until the first hard frost. Most people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed. Luckily, ragweed is one of the pollens that can be treated with both allergy shots and tablets.
Allergy shots can be used to treat all grass, tree and weed pollens, mold spores, cat and dog dander and house dust mites. If you are allergic to more than one of these things, your allergist will formulate a shot targeted to treat your specific allergens.
Allergy tablets treat one allergen at a time and are available for grass and ragweed pollens, and for dust mites. The tablets need to be started at least three months before allergy season begins. Talk with your allergist to see if this might be a good option for you.
If you are treating your allergy symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription medications, it's important to start taking fall allergy medication two weeks or so before symptoms usually begin. You should also continue your medication for two weeks after the first hard frost. Both nasal and eye symptoms associated with ragweed allergies can linger after pollen is no longer in the air.
While you treat your symptoms, you should also know what's causing your allergies because, if possible, you want to avoid the allergens in daily life. So how do you avoid allergens?
The first line of defense is to avoid triggers. After spending time outdoors you should shower, and change and wash your clothes. While working outdoors, wear a NIOSH N95-rated filter mask. Only N95 masks filter out pollen due to its micro size. Be sure to also keep your car and home windows closed. When you do go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
If you suffer from any seasonal allergies, see a board-certified allergist. Allergists are trained to diagnose and treat your symptoms, and to work with you to create an individual action plan so you can live the life you want.
If you think you might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergy and asthma, find an allergist in your area with the allergist locator tool.