Pollen - Not Just A Springtime Enemy
Beginning around August 15th, airborne pollen from a variety of weeds makes its way into the air we breathe. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), ragweed pollen is most responsible for the spike of allergy symptoms in the fall. And if you suffer from ragweed allergy, you are definitely not alone: a recent study found that more than half of Americans have allergies and, of those, 20% suffer from hayfever, also called pollen or ragweed allergy.
Ragweed is commonly found in fields and along roadsides, but city-dweller's are not immune: pollen grows abundantly in vacant lots as well. While there are almost no areas in the U.S. that are ragweed-free, a few cities in the Pacific Northwest have little to no ragweed allergy season. Residents of the Midwest suffer with some of the highest ragweed concentrations.
The two most prevalent species of ragweed are known as "short ragweed" and "giant ragweed." They can range in size from 2 to 15 feet tall and product millions of pollen spores. Unlike some of spring's most prevalent pollens, the pollen grains produced by ragweed are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, your body will know they are there and react to them like foreign invaders with puffy eyes, a runny nose and other allergy symptoms. In addition to ragweed, other fall allergy offenders include Kentucky bluegrass, timothy grass, Bermuda grass and redtop grass. Most people who are allergic to pollen are usually sensitive to several different types.
Practicing Pollen Avoidance, Finding Relief
You've probably figured out by now, that National Allergy emphasizes allergy avoidance as a major key to finding relief. However, some may question if this is a realistic approach for an allergen as pervasive as pollen. Short of wearing a filtration mask and non-vented goggles throughout your entire day, you cannot completely live without pollen. But there really are some proactive measures you can take to avoid the worst of it AND find relief. Many of these tips will enhance the effectiveness of any current allergy medication your doctor may prescribe, and I hope that some of you are able to avoid medication altogether!
- Nip pollen season in the bud by installing a high-efficiency whole-house air filter. Both permanent and disposable furnace filters are a great way to block pollen and other allergens, and you can't beat our quantity price breaks on the popular 3M Filtrete Ultra.
- Vent Filters are a simple way to increase the filtration efficiency of your home's HVAC system. Simply affix them to the room vents to trap pollen, dust and other allergens that may be in your ductwork.
- HEPA room air cleaners are often recommended by doctors as a means to avoid airborne pollen in the home. The HEPA media traps 99.97% of allergenic particles making the room's air more breathable.
- Fall yard work can stir up lots of allergens including pollen and mold spores, but if you must tackle that mounting pile of leaves, protect yourself with an affordable dust and pollen mask.
- After working or playing outside, shower pollen off of your hair and body, and wash your clothes in hot water with an allergy-friendly detergent.
- Outdoor pets can track pollen into the house. Make sure to wipe pets down before they roll around on the couch or living room carpet. And bathe them plenty: use an anti-allergen shampoo to take care of pollen as well as dander and dust mite allergen, too!
- When you are in your car, keep the windows closed as much as possible, and use re-circulated (as opposed to outside air) for cooling. A portable HEPA air cleaner like the Clean-Air 5000 can connect to the cigarette lighter and provide efficient filtration on the go.
- Plan vacations to less pollen-prone areas like the beach. Check www.pollen.com for pollen counts both in your area as well as in travel destinations.
- Did you know that nasal irrigation is a great way to avoid allergic reactions and find relief from seasonal allergies? Washing your nose of pollen, dust and other allergens is a great way to reduce allergy flare-ups. The SinuCleanse neti-pot is modeled after one of the original sinus irrigation methods. For other convenient irrigation options, I recommend the Nasopure Nasal Wash Kit or the Nasaline Irrigator. For more thorough irrigation often recommended for sinusitis patients, the Hydro Pulse System provides excellent nasal washing.
- All-natural, portable nasal sprays can also offer allergy prevention and relief. A single dose of SneezEze, a unique European nasal powder, offers all-day hay fever symptom relief with no side effects. Xlear Nasal Wash with xylitol moistens nasal cilia and tissue so it can better trap and flush away allergens.
- If puffy, itchy eyes are a typical pollen allergy symptom for you, the MediBeads Sinus Wrap can provide soothing, moist heat relief to swollen eyes and sinus pressure.
Other Autumn Allergy Threats
Molds. Last fall, our friends in Florida endured a harsh hurricane season. The fury of the storms on both coasts meant building damage, ruined roads, and for many, long-term damage caused by leaks, flooding and damaged infrastructure. Even after cleaning up the debris and fixing broken doors, screens and roofs, the long-term implications of flood damage can linger. Mold growth was rampant in flood-damaged homes after the hurricane season. You can never totally prepare yourself for what nature can throw at you, but you can lessen the consequences by monitoring moisture and leakage, treating mold-affected areas, and dehumidifying to prevent future growth.
You may not be in the direct path of tropical storms, but mold growth can still be a problem in your area of the country. No matter where you live, the combination of leaf piles, decaying organic matter and autumn rains is a recipe ripe for mold growth. Take caution when working in the yard or spending time in the woods. Just as you protect yourself from late-summer pollens, you should protect yourself from reactions to outdoor mold and mildew: wear a mask and wash your body and your clothes after being outdoors.
Colds. Changing temperatures in different regions can mean the advent of cold and flu season. While it usually doesn't get into full swing until winter, there are precautions you can take during the fall to lessen your likelihood of catching every bug and germ that comes near you this winter. A few recommendations:
- Clean up and purify your environment now by allergy-proofing your bedroom and equipping other important rooms of the house with a HEPA Air Cleaner.
- Get in the habit of nasal irrigation. Regular saline irrigation provides relief and prevention of future symptoms by washing the nasal passages of potentially harmful substances. Many National Allergy staff and customers who are regular "irrigators" have not had a serious cold or flu in years.
- Build up your immune system now with a supplement like Dr. Burgstiner's Complete Thymic Formula, the best, most complete immune system builder on the market today.
Here's wishing that you may be able to enjoy all the fun fall has to offer - football, post-season baseball (Go Braves!), campfires, changing leaves - without the frustration of allergy symptoms.