We take a look at the cause of fall allergies and offer advice on some ways to fight back, including using a smart air purifier to clean the air in your home.
After a long, hot summer, the return of crisp autumn weather feels like a gift. We can sleep with the windows open, don sweaters on apple-picking adventures, and peep a rainbow of colorful leaves. But, for many of us, fall also means serious sniffles, scratchy throats, and watery eyes. No, the cooler weather isn’t giving us all colds, it’s flaring up a unique set of allergic reactions. Here’s what you need to know about autumn allergens and how to manage the onslaught:
You Can’t Avoid the Ragweed
Some 23 million Americans are allergic to ragweed pollen, and unfortunately there’s no safe zone. There are 17 varieties of the flowering plant across the country, and winds can carry the ultra-light allergen up to 400 miles from its origin. To make matters worse, researchers at the USDA note that warmer temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide (read: plant fuel) can lead to much larger ragweed plants that produce more pollen that’s even-more potent. And the pollen can linger from the time plants begin flowering in August until the first frost.
Battle Plan: Keep windows closed as much as possible — especially in the morning when pollen counts are highest. Containment is also key; when you come inside, take off your shoes and coat to avoid spreading pollen throughout the house. Finally, clean regularly using a HEPA-equipped vacuum and air purifier.
Fall Foliage Has A Dark Side
As beautiful as fall colors may be — and as tempting as diving into a pile of leaves truly is — the breakdown of foliage comes with its own set of allergens. Molds and fungus thrive in damp conditions, so heaps of rotting leaves provide them with a perfect petri dish. Mold releases spores, which, when inhaled, can aggravate the nose, eyes, and throat. At the same time, raking leaves can stir up settled pollen, sparking even more allergic reactions. Because it hangs out as waste composts, mold can linger later into the fall than ragweed.
Battle Plan: If you can’t avoid fall outdoor cleanup altogether, protect yourself while you do it. If you’re sensitive to mold spores, wear a mask when raking. Keep waste contained in bags and/or pile it up far from the house. (Sorry, no jumping in.) If you can, shower immediately after yard work to rid your skin and hair of pesky allergens.
Dust Mites Love Cool Weather
For the estimated 20 million Americans allergic to dust mites, microscopic bugs that feed on organic debris like skin flakes, chilly autumn climates can bring an uptick in irritants. These tiny spider relatives thrive in damp conditions and when temperatures are in the high 60s to mid 70s. If temps spike or drop or if humidity dips below 70 percent, the mites may not survive.
Battle Plan: Indoor climate control is among the best defenses against dust mites; running a dehumidifier can rob the pests of their preferred damp conditions. Mite-blocking pillow and mattress covers can keep the bugs out of their preferred habitats, as well. And regular cleaning — of the surfaces and the air — can help zap what survives.