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Home of Sidney Kimmel Medical College

How to Find Relief from Fall Allergies

Seasonal allergies are never fun to deal with—here’s how to avoid sneezing up a storm and nip those symptoms in the bud.

It’s finally autumn—a time of year known for crisp, cool weather. But your plans to go apple-picking, cuddle up for a haunted hayride, or enjoy that long-awaited pumpkin spice latte can be ruined by the effects of seasonal allergies. We spoke with Paul Berlin, MD, a board-certified allergist-immunologist find out more about fall seasonal allergies and what you can do to help with symptoms.

What’s the difference between spring and fall allergies?

The difference is the types of pollen present in each season. With different types of pollen, come different allergy symptoms. Spring allergies mainly stem from tree and grass pollen, which commonly affects the eyes, nose and throat. Many people will experience itching, burning or swollen eyes in the spring.

In the fall, ragweed and other weed pollen are present, which affect the nasal passageways, causing sneezing and coughing. During this time of year, many people experience sinus infections and bronchitis due to allergies.

How do you know if symptoms are from COVID-19 or just allergies?

Unfortunately, both fall allergies and COVID-19 can appear with upper respiratory symptoms. But, there are a few key differences. COVID-19 causes a significant number of people to have a sudden loss of taste and smell. It’s almost like having a stroke of the nose. Unlike COVID-19, allergies may cause a gradual reduction in sense of taste or smell, but it won’t appear immediately. It is always better to be tested if you’re unsure, or you may have been exposed to COVID-19 – but if you still have a sense of taste and smell, there’s a good chance it’s just seasonal allergies.

What are the best treatment options for seasonal allergies?

If you do have fall allergies, there are some ways to curtail your exposure to pollen that can help alleviate your symptoms, such as installing HEPA air purifiers in your home, and keeping your windows closed between 5 and 10 a.m.—when the pollen levels outside are highest.

Over-the-counter treatments – including antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays – can be effective in managing day-to-day symptoms, but I highly recommend allergy shots as a long-term solution to seasonal allergies. Allergy shots contain small amounts of allergens to get your body used to exposure. In time, your symptoms will dissipate, and you will not need as much over-the-counter medication to keep them under control.

When should you see a doctor about fall allergies?

It’s important to see your doctor right away if you are experiencing allergy symptoms. Many people will wait to be evaluated, and by the time they see a doctor, they have a sinus infection. It may be allergies, but there is also a chance it could be something else, like vasomotor rhinitis—a condition that mimics allergies, in which the blood vessels in your nose dilate. Your allergy doctor will test you for allergies to make sure they’re guiding you on the right treatment path for your condition.

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