For allergy sufferers, the end of summer can feel like a welcome relief. Cooler temperatures and fewer plants growing seems to offer better air quality. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case. Along with the crisp air and falling leaves of autumn comes even more challenges for those who struggle with respiratory issues.
What Causes Fall Allergies?
Just like the rest of the year, respiratory allergies are caused by pollutants in the air. There are several specific allergens that are in higher concentration in fall.
While ragweed pollen often begins being released in August, it can last into September and even October. About 75% of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed…. This means that for many of us, there’s not a lot of relief.
Unfortunately, almost no place is free from the effects of ragweed. It grows in every state except for Alaska. And, even if it isn’t growing in your neighborhood, the pollen can travel for hundreds of miles on the wind.
While mold can grow almost anywhere during any season, the fall leaves are particularly conducive to mold infestation. Autumn winds can spread mold spores around, causing widespread allergy symptoms.
As the nights get chillier, you may be tempted to turn on your heat. But make sure to do a thorough cleaning first. Bits of mold and other allergens can get trapped in the vents over the summer and will fill the air as soon as you start the furnace.
Colder temperatures often mean more time indoors and indoor air is filled with particulate matter, typically 2 to 5 more than outdoor air. Particulate matter are a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
Cooking, heating your home, and cleaning products all contribute to dangerous indoor air quality, which can trigger allergies and have a devastating effect on your overall health. In fact, one recent study called PM 2.5 “the largest environmental risk factor worldwide, ”responsible for many more deaths than alcohol use, physical inactivity or high sodium intake. Worldwide, 4.2 million people die every year from breathing in large amounts of fine and ultrafine particulate matter.
How can we reduce allergy symptoms?
Know your local pollen count
The weather has a big impact on how much pollen is in the air. Windy days generally have higher pollen counts because pollen rides on the breeze and spreads everywhere, while the moisture in the air on rainy days weighs down pollen. To minimize your pollen exposure, check the pollen count in your area online before heading out.
Sunglasses can create a barrier to keep a lot of the pollen and spores from getting into your eyes. Allergies tend to make you more sensitive to sunlight as well, so sunglasses can also make being outdoors easier. Look for dark glasses that wrap around your head to block out pollen from all sides.
Be mindful of indoor plants
Most flowering plants are pollinated by insects, so indoor houseplants are less likely to cause pollen allergies. But, the soil that the plants grow in can bring a lot of unwanted mold spores into your home. Remove dead plant debris, provide plenty of sunlight, and don’t overwater your plants to keep mold from growing.
Adjust Home Humidity
Mold is a major source of allergy symptoms. Without sufficient moisture, mold won’t be able to grow. To help control indoor mold, use a dehumidifier or air conditioner that keeps your home humidity close to 50 percent.
Keep Troublespots Clean
Spending more time indoors means spending more time cleaning. Allergy sufferers know how much a clean home can help in minimizing symptoms. Things like wiping down surfaces and vacuuming should be done every day. But, it’s also important to remember those often-overlooked spots like windows, curtains, laundry rooms, basements, refrigerator drain pans, and old books. Wear a mask while cleaning and get out of the house for a few hours afterward to let the air clear so that your allergy symptoms aren’t triggered.
Use an air purifier with a True HEPA filter
One of the most effective ways to eliminate fall allergens in your home is by using an air purifier with a True HEPA filter. A good air purifier can remove up to 99.95% of the pollutants indoors, keeping your home free from respiratory allergens.