One of the best parts of living in the Lowcountry is the warm climate, giving us the opportunity to spend time outside almost year-round. The downside, though, is that allergy season seems to be in full swing most months of the year, too.
Many people complain about spring allergies, armed with Kleenex as they bemoan runny noses and itchy, watery eyes. But don’t discount the allergy challenges that come with the fall season.
Here are some of the main differences between spring and fall allergies.
1. The Rise and Fall of Ragweed
In the fall, weed pollen such as ragweed is at its highest level. Fall weed pollens hang around until the first good frost, which, in Charleston, might not happen until late December or early January.
2. New Leaf, Old Leaf
Unlike spring, when fresh, green leaves are sprouting from every tree, fall is the time when we must deal with their demise. Raking up leaves from the yard can be tough on someone with a mold allergy. The decomposing leaves are filled with mold, says Dr. Jeffrey J. Dietrich, a board-certified allergist at Charleston Allergy & Asthma.
Mold can peak in the summer and early fall thanks to the high humidity. And this year’s rainy summer season certainly isn’t helping.
3. More Dust Mites
Spring tends to offer some of Charleston’s more pleasant weather conditions and those cooler days mean a less hospitable environment for dust mites – microscopic insects found anywhere there’s dust. Summer’s rain and humidity cause dust mites to come out in the fall season.
While it’s impossible to live in a completely dust-free environment, the best way to battle dust mites is by regularly washing bed linens and using zippered dust mite covers on pillows and mattresses, explains Dr. Dietrich. He also suggests keeping the indoor humidity levels below 50 percent to lessen the prevalence of dust mites and mold.
4. School Ties
By the spring, kids usually have adjusted to the different germs and allergens that line the halls of their local schools, and some, such as dust mites and mold, likely have lessened during the winter. As children head back to school in the fall, parents may notice their allergies worsen as they’re re-exposed to more mold or dust mites in the schools. About 40 percent of children suffer from allergies, with symptoms causing them to miss 2 million school days. Severe allergy symptoms combined with drowsy-inducing medications can impact children’s overall performance, grades and health.
5. Pervasive Pollen
The spring season gets blamed for most allergies, largely thanks to the visible yellow pollen covering every surface, blooming trees and greening grasses. The main cause of spring allergies, Dr. Dietrich says, is tree pollen. Charleston’s long growing season means tree pollen can appear as early as late January or early February.
But some varieties of pollens are prevalent in the Lowcountry for several months and extend into the fall season.
“There are really only a couple of months a year in the Lowcountry when there’s no pollen, just a couple of months in the wintertime,” Dr. Dietrich says.
Treating Fall Allergies – What Can You Do?
Many people tend to treat their allergy symptoms with over-the-counter medications like Claritin, Zyrtec or nasal spray. Those work fine for treating symptoms, but Dr. Dietrich says the best way to get control of allergies is to find out the true culprit.
An allergy test will reveal the specific allergies or types of pollen a person is allergic to. Armed with that information, a board-certified Allergist can work with a patient to develop a treatment plan that might include allergy shots and offer instructions on how to help avoid certain pollens.
“Allergists are trained to understand which medicines work well together,” Dr. Dietrich says. “Sometimes you’re trying to treat yourself, but we know a better concoction. If you try out some medication and you’re not getting good relief, see an allergist to get tested and find out what’s causing the problem.”
If allergies are interfering with your enjoyment of life in the Lowcountry, make an appointment with Charleston Allergy & Asthma today. Contact them at (843) 881-2030 or visit CharlestonAllergy.com.