Autumn is the season of apple-picking and back-to-school bargains, but for 50 million allergy sufferers it means something else too—time to stock up on tissues. Ragweed season, which runs from early August to mid-October, triggers symptoms like congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat. Another major fall allergen, mold spores, peaks in October for the colder states. (July is the mold spore peak in warmer areas.) While you can’t completely avoid the triggers, there are strategies that can help minimize your symptoms and maximize your relief.
Protect Against Pollen
Unless you live in a bubble, you’re going to be exposed to pollen. (One ragweed plant lives only one season but can produce a whopping one billion grains of pollen over that time.) One way to minimize contact is to stay indoors when the pollen count is highest, which is usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you do venture out, change your clothes and shower once you’re home to remove the allergens, making sure to thoroughly wash your face and hair so you don’t get pollen on your pillow. Finally, keep your windows closed and use your air conditioner to keep indoor air pollen-free.
Beware of Yard Work
Mold spores grow on damp leaves and compost piles, so you need to tackle this seasonal chore with caution. Wear a mask when you rake, and bag up leaves promptly. Even better, hire someone else to handle the job—including hauling leaves away.
Watch What You Eat
Certain foods can aggravate ragweed allergies, so consider avoiding them during the season. Potentially problematic foods include bananas, tomatoes, melons, and zucchini. On the flip side, foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, like broccoli, celery, and garlic, may naturally help fight allergies.
Wear Your Shades
Your beach days may be dwindling, but don’t pack away those sunglasses just yet. Research shows that wearing protective eyewear can fight your fall allergies by blocking out pollen along with UV rays. One study found that seasonal allergy sufferers who wore sunglasses required less antihistamine medicine and noted fewer eye sensitivities.
Medicate Ahead of Time
Don’t wait for a sneezing fit to deal with your symptoms. It takes time for your body to absorb medication. Take your 24-hour allergy tablet before bed, so that the medicine kicks in by morning when your hay fever symptoms are at their worst.