Spring isn’t the only time when allergens abound and we start getting watery and itchy eyes and noses. Fall is also a prime time for allergens. So, as we prepare to settle in for the cold season, it’s important to keep our homes as allergen-free as possible during these transition months.
Granted, moving to a city that’s easier on your allergies isn’t always an option. Instead, let’s focus on what you can do in your current home. So, to discover some of the best practices for dealing with fall allergens, we asked health experts for their advice. Here are their practical tips for dealing with allergens and keeping them out of your apartment this fall:
Common Fall Allergens
“Seasonal allergies aren’t just limited to the springtime when pollen is at an all-time high,” said Jose Mier, founder of Heliotherapy Research Institute. “The fall season has its own set of distinct fall allergens you need to be wary of. The most common type of allergens in the fall are ragweed, mold and dust mites.”
Jay Woody, chief medical officer at Intuitive Health, elaborated: “Some plants — such as ragweed, mountain cedar and sagebrush — are worse than others for causing allergies. Allergies are also caused by grass pollen and tree pollen, especially birch, cedar and oak.”
And, according to Dr. Marc Goldstein, Curist medical advisor, “The most common fall allergen is ragweed, which is a widespread weed that grows across the US. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers in the South and Northeast, fall ragweed allergies will be particularly prevalent this year because of the heavy rains those regions have received recently.”
As such, it’s best to know how to keep ourselves and our homes clean and unburdened by these allergens.
How to Avoid Fall Allergens
- Keep Them Out of Your Apartment
“You may not be able to prevent all allergic symptoms, but you can minimize them,” Woody said. “Stay inside where it’s air-conditioned during peak pollen times, usually mornings and evenings. Take a thorough bath or shower before bedtime or right after working or playing outdoors. Take off your shoes when in the house. Keep the windows closed. Rinse out nasal passages with saline sprays.”
Mier gave similar advice: “It is almost impossible to keep pollen 100% out of your apartment, but you should keep your windows and doors tightly shut during peak times and take off any clothing that might have been exposed as soon as you get back inside. Mold is relatively easier to prevent indoors. Use a humidifier to control the moisture in your apartment and clean your bathrooms with an anti-mildew agent at least once a week. A humidifier will also help you keep dust mites out. Regularly clean any dusty spots in your apartment and use dust-free bed covers. You should also wash your bedding in hot water to completely cleanse it of any dust build-up.”
- Clean or Brush Your Hair Every Night
“Whenever you step outside, these allergens can get trapped in your hair and the buildup can cause your allergy symptoms to become increasingly irritating,” said Dr. Zachary Okhah, founder and chief surgeon at PH1 Miami. “And, when you go to bed without washing your hair, the allergens then get trapped in your pillowcases and sheets, which is why many people experience severe allergy symptoms overnight.
“The easiest way to reduce the chance of allergens getting stuck in your hair is, of course, to wear a hat. But, if you prefer to flaunt your locks, avoid heavy styling products, like gel and mouse. These contain waxes, petroleum and silicones that leave a tacky finish, making it easier to stick to pollen. Instead, opt for a lighter product, like a cream or serum. While washing your hair every day can dry out your scalp and fade color, rinsing your hair in water can help remove the allergens before you jump into bed. But, if you’re so tired that you need to hit the sack, running a brush through your hair will also help to remove pollen from your strands. Just be sure to rinse out your brush in the morning.”
- Consume Local Foods
Katie Ziskind, owner of Wisdom Within Counseling, advises individuals to be mindful of their diets and the source of their foods.
“A great way to overcome fall allergens is to eat local foods and get in some local honey,” she said. “When you buy local honey, the bees have endured the allergens in your local area [and] you can boost your immune system with a bit of honey. Similarly, finding a local, sustainable meat farm in your area and buying and using local produce and meats can help you build some immunity against local allergens. Sign up with a community share agriculture (or a CSA) where you can go to your local farm and get a basket of vegetables and different items that they have grown that week. Usually, a CSA is for one season, so you could find summer season share and then sign up for the fall and winter season share.
“Eating less processed food can help your body more readily and resiliently fight off allergens,” Ziskind continued. “Eating more whole foods, natural foods and organic foods, as well as primarily local foods, can be incredible and boost your body’s natural immune response and reduce allergy responses.”
- Include Helpful Nutrients in Your Diet
“Nutrients help the body respond to stress and inflammation,” said Jeanette Kimszal of Root Nutrition. “So, getting good nutrition can help to fight allergies that may be cropping up. Vitamin C is helpful for lowering histamine produced during an allergy attack. Getting foods rich in this nutrient may help lower allergic reactions. Vitamin C foods include colorful veggies, peppers, broccoli and citrus fruits.
“Spices have compounds that help to fight seasonal allergies,” she continued. “Garlic has quercetin, which helps to lower histamine levels. Turmeric had curcumin. Curcumin was found to improve respiratory symptoms and reduce congestion due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, another anti-inflammatory spice is ginger.”
How to Manage Allergy Symptoms
Here are some tips for relief from fall allergies from Shirin Peters, MD, at Bethany Medical Clinic:
- Reduce your exposure to dust: Vacuum carpets and upholstery daily; wash your bedding weekly in hot water, then dry on the highest temperature setting; and cover your pillows and mattress in air-tight, allergen-resistant covers to eliminate dust mites.
- Use a HEPA filter in your home to remove dust and allergens from the air.
- Invest in a humidifier. Dry air can cause dry, uncomfortable nasal passages, which are more easily inflamed by allergens.
- Bathe pets frequently to control dander.
- Change air filters monthly to eliminate airborne dust containing lint, animal dander, bacteria, fabric fiber and food material.
- Use hypoallergenic, fragrance- and dye-free laundry detergent, which is gentle on the skin without causing irritation or itchiness.
- Incorporate honey into your diet; although it’s not scientifically proven, consuming a bit of honey every day may gradually immunize you to the irritant.
- Irrigate nasal passages with a saline solution for drug-free congestion relief and to soothe irritated passageways.
- Alternate hot and cold compresses on your eyes and nose, which can help relieve sinus pressure.
- Take a hot, steamy shower to clear nasal passages.
We thank all of the contributors to this piece for their advice. If you’re an expert on this topic and would like to be featured, share your advice with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These professional tips will help you control your reactions to irritants that abound during fall. So, take care of yourself and your home to make sure you transition smoothly into the colder months.