By Maureen E. Snyder, APN
Shore Physicians Group, Margate Office
Many of us at the Jersey shore look forward to the arrival of fall, with the promise of thinned crowds, cool, sunny days, pumpkin-spice everything, and the changing of the leaves. But for some, the season also brings a not-so-pleasant side effect: fall allergies.
Ragweed is the most common culprit for allergy symptoms in the fall. In New Jersey, ragweed blooms from mid-August until the end of October, and a single plant releases up to one billion grains of pollen in a season. Floating through the air, the particles enter the body through the eyes, nose, and throat. For the many sufferers of these allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hayfever, contact with pollen causes a cascade of responses from the immune system meant to attack the substance which the body mistakes for something harmful. These responses lead to the well-known symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and throat and nasal congestion.
While avoiding pollen by staying inside is the only real solution to preventing fall allergies 100 percent, we know that is not practical, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help minimize your fall allergies:
- Stay inside during high pollen counts. Pollen counts are highest in the morning hours and on dry windy days, so try staying inside during those times. There are several websites that provide a daily pollen count for our area, such as pollen.com; and, the National Allergy Bureau will allow you sign up for a daily email report of pollen and mold counts at pollen.aaaai.org.
- Keep windows shut. Whether you’re at home or in the car, keep your windows closed. While it might be tempting to let that fresh fall air in, you want to keep your indoor spaces pollen-free. In the car, use the air conditioner to recirculate the air. In your home, never use window fans as they will force pollen-filled air into your home.
- Don’t hang clothes or bedding on the line. It’s important to wash your bedding regularly, but the last thing you want is the fabrics you wear and sleep on to be coated in pollen. Dry them in the dryer instead.
- Wear a pollen mask and sunglasses when doing yard work. Pollen masks are available at any drugstore and are very effective at keeping pollen out of your nasal passageways. Pollen can also causes allergies by getting into your eyes, so wear wrap around-style sunglasses to physically block pollen.
- Wash your hands and face. When coming in from outside, head right to the sink and wash your hands and face. Avoid touching your nose and eyes especially.
- Wash your pets often. Pets and their bedding need to be washed frequently, as their bodies become vehicles for pollen grains.
- Shower before bed. If you’ve been outside, be sure to shower and wash your hair before going to bed to avoid sleeping on a “pollen pillow.”
- Use nasal washes. These can help to remove pollen and mucus from the nose and are proven to relieve symptoms. These are sold in drug stories as a nasal irrigation kit. Neti pots do the same job, but remember to use boiled (and cooled!) water or distilled water, and never water from the tap to avoid contamination. Distilled water is also available at any drugstore.
- Use allergy medications. Many medications are available over the counter and by prescription with a variety of applications and side effects. See your primary care provider early for the best advice.
By taking steps now to have the tools and information you need to tackle your fall allergies, you can enjoy much of what this wonderful season has to offer in our region.
Maureen Snyder, APN is a nurse practitioner at Shore Physicians Group’s Margate office, located at 9710 Ventnor Avenue. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 609-822-4800. For additional information on Shore Physicians Group, visit www.shorephysiciansgroup.com.