Mould spores in the air are a common cause of autumn allergies.
Here are some tips for coping with allergies when the leaves start falling off the trees.
1. Know your allergy triggers
Triggers, or allergens, can vary by region, but experts say one of the main culprits for many autumn seasonal allergies are moulds. Outdoor moulds grow in heavy vegetation, hay and straw, and are found in raked leaves. Outdoor moulds increase after rain, too.
Predicting how bad an allergy season will be is an inexact science, but there are some general links with weather.
Outdoor mould can increase with more moisture. So if you live in an area affected by flooding or heavy rains in the spring or summer, you can probably expect a worse than usual allergy season.
2. Learn do-it-yourself protection
Allergy UK offers tips to help reduce exposure to mould inside and out, including:
- Ventilation helps prevent mould growth indoors.
- Try to keep away from mould hotspots, such as cellars, compost heaps, woodland and piles of leaves.
- A face-mask may help when mould areas cannot be avoided.
- Thorough cleaning in kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms helps reduce mould.
- Fridge seals and window frames can harbour mould and it can also grow in hidden areas behind cupboards and units.
- Don't dry clothes indoors, make sure tumble driers have external vents.
- Allow some space between clothes in wardrobes and leave doors slightly open for ventilation.
- Allow ventilation for steam from baths, showers and cooking but close internal doors to keep damp away from other areas.
- Make sure wood for fires is dry before it comes into the home.
- Check wallpaper for signs of dampness.
- Be careful with recycling storage, especially rotting food and newspapers.
- Consider having fewer houseplants, and change the soil to avoid mould growth.
- Try to avoid humidifiers if possible, but if these are needed, keep humidity as low as possible and follow instructions on emptying and cleaning.
- Where possible, avoid paraffin heaters and bottled gas heaters which create moisture.
3. Get proper treatment
Your GP or an allergy specialist can recommend a variety of medications, some over-the-counter and some needing a prescription, to improve your seasonal allergies. Many are approved for use in children.
Topical nasal sprays, available over-the-counter or on prescription, work well. They actually reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose. They often contain medications called corticosteroids that work by reducing inflammation and are minimally, if at all, absorbed into the body. The sprays are usually used daily, before and during the allergy season.
Oral antihistamines are another option. They are often recommended along with topical nasal corticosteroids. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released during an allergic reaction.
Eye drops can help itchy eyes.
Another option for people who have both asthma and hayfever is a drug known as a leukotriene receptor antagonist that blocks leukotrienes, substances that cause allergy symptoms.
Nasal irrigation may help, too. Many over-the-counter allergy options contain a combination of drug ingredients that include a decongestant. Decongestants may elevate blood pressure and heart rate, so talk with your GP to make sure they are suitable for you before you take them.
4. Beware of foods that trigger your symptoms
About a third of people with autumnal allergies will also have a cross-reaction to certain foods. This is the concept of oral allergy syndrome.