Spring and summer are notoriously bad for allergy sufferers in Salem; all that grass in the fertile Willamette Valley causes misery and suffering for a lot of people when it blooms. But allergies can occur in the fall months, too. The culprits this time of year? Ragweed, dust mites and mold spores.
Fall Allergy Triggers in Oregon
Just because it’s colder now and the rains have begun to fall in earnest doesn’t mean you are safe from allergies in Salem. Sure, your mind might be focused on pumpkin spice lattes and putting up Halloween decorations, but your immune system has other things to worry about. Whenever it encounters a substance it perceives as a threat, the immune system mounts a defense by releasing chemicals called histamines into the bloodstream. This is a case of good intentions gone wrong; the allergen is actually harmless, and those chemicals cause a variety of symptoms including itchy, watery eyes, nose and throat; sneezing; and a stuffy or runny nose. People with asthma have it even worse; allergies can inflame the airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. There’s an increased risk of suffering from anaphylactic shock, a potentially deadly condition that causes the airway to completely close.
Reducing the impact on allergies during the fall months is vital. Your Salem ear, nose and throat doctor recommends taking the following measures.
- Familiarize yourself with fall allergies. Pollen may be more common in the spring and summer months, when lush grasses and trees begin to bloom, but it can occur in the fall, as well. Ragweed is an autumn-blooming plant that produces large amounts of pollen; these tiny particles can be carried on the wind, traveling for hundreds of miles. Oregon’s cool, wet fall weather also triggers an explosive growth of mold spores; these are especially common in wet leaves and damp basements. Dust mites are a year-round problem that become more noticeable this time of year because we are staying indoors more often.
- Learn to recognize allergy symptoms. Many people experience allergy-like symptoms without being allergic to a particular substance. Mold, for example, can cause similar symptoms in almost everybody. One sure giveaway that your symptoms are being caused by allergies? You’ll experience itchiness in the eyes, nose and throat. This rarely occurs in conjunction with other illnesses. If you’re still unsure, your ENT specialist can give you an allergy test to confirm whether you a particular allergen is responsible for your symptoms.
- Keep an eye on pollen and mold counts. Avoid going outdoors when pollen and mold counts are especially high; these usually peak early in the morning and on windy days. Newspapers, television weather reports and smartphone apps all provide information on pollen and mold counts.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses. Pollen and mold spores that come into contact with your hair and eyes can trigger reactions, so protecting these sensitive areas by wearing a hat and sunglasses. Unless, of course, it’s raining—in which case, pollen and mold spores aren’t likely to cause you much grief.
- Keep windows and doors closed. It’s always a joy when a stretch of sunny, warm weather follows a week of rain; these Indian Summer spells may tempt you to open your windows and doors, but doing so is likely to usher in allergens. Turn on an air conditioner if you’re too warm, and don’t worry—the cool, damp, gloomy weather is sure to return soon.
- Change your clothes when you get home. If you’ve been outdoors, it’s likely that pollen and mold spores will end up clinging to your clothing. Change into something you plan to wear strictly indoors when you get home. For added protection, take a quick shower to wash these substances from your hair and skin.
- Keep your house clean. Vacuum, mop and dust regularly to help prevent dust mites from flourishing. You don’t have to clean every square inch from top to bottom, but definitely concentrate on rooms where you spend a lot of time, such as the living room and bedroom. Wash linens and bedding in hot water once a week. If you’re especially sensitive, a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can help filter out even microscopic particulates, lessening the severity of your symptoms.
- Use a dehumidifier. Dust mites and mold are both drawn to moist environments, so it’s recommended you keep humidity levels in your home below 50 percent. A dehumidifier is an excellent way to remove moisture from the air and keep these substances in check.
- Keep allergy medications on hand. Even when you follow these tips, you won’t completely eliminate allergies from your life. Be sure to stock your medicine cabinet with antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays to help keep your symptoms at bay when allergies do flare up.
For more information on preventing fall allergies, contact an ear, nose and throat specialist in Salem.