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How to protect yourself from fall’s biggest allergens

Kid playing with leaves

Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author

Football, apple picking and pumpkins make autumn one of the best times to be outdoors. But seasonal allergies from ragweed, mold and other sources take the fun out of the season, forcing you to stay indoors sneezing while everyone else plays in the leaves.

By taking some precautions against fall’s biggest allergens, you can spend your time enjoying hayrides, rather than suffering from hay fever. Here’s what you need to know:

Most common fall allergies  

Seasonal allergens occur three times of the year. While plants and grasses pollinate in spring and summer, weeds release pollen during the fall.


The ragweed plant is the predominant contributor to allergy symptoms from the late summer to mid-fall. Ragweed shoots tiny particles of pollen into the air, sometimes triggering an aggressive response from the body’s immune system when inhaled.

A number of other weeds also pollinate this time of year. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes that curly dock, lamb’s quarters, sagebrush and pigweed can all cause allergy symptoms the autumn.

Mold is the second biggest cause of allergies in the fall. Outdoor molds and mildews flourish in damp leaves, rotting wood and soil. Your body may react to the spores these fungi release into the air throughout the fall, causing unpleasant symptoms like dry skin, sneezing, congestion and a runny nose.

Precautions against fall allergies

Autumn can be a rough time of year for allergy sufferers. Fortunately, taking some precautions will help minimize your exposure to fall allergens.


The battle against allergens begins at home. Install HEPA filters on your air conditioner and furnace to reduce the amount of allergy-inducing pollen that enters your home. Don’t let dead leaves pile up and rot on your lawn, say the experts at Women’s Health. This creates a breeding ground for mold. Finally, remove your shoes and jacket before walking in the front door to avoid tracking pollen and spores into your home.

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You should also limit the exposure of your body and respiratory system to fall allergens. You don’t have to lock yourself inside the whole season, but avoid going outdoors when pollen counts are highest (usually late morning until late afternoon).  Sunglasses and clothing that covers the skin will protect your body from mold spores and ragweed pollen. Everyday Health says it’s a good idea to wear a face mask when performing outdoor chores, like raking leaves and gardening, to avoid breathing in fall allergens.

Treating fall allergy symptoms

Symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, headaches, itchy throat and watery eyes could indicate that you have fall allergies. But you don’t have to endure the suffering for long—allergy medications and treatments will have you back on your feet in no time.


Over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines and allergy medications will provide relief from mild reactions to mold and pollen. Nasal sprays and leukotriene inhibitors can also help reduce congestion and mucus production.

Prescription medications will alleviate more serious allergy symptoms. Oral antihistamines, such as Xyzal and Clarinex, treat hay fever and hives. For itchy eyes, prescription drops like Elestat, Optivar and Patanase will provide relief from redness and irritation. A prescription nasal spray, such as Afrin or Astelin, will clear out congestion and reduce sneezing.

Severe allergy sufferers should explore immunotherapy options, such as allergy shots and tablets. Courses of these treatments will help the body build resistance to fall allergens, thus reducing or eliminating your symptoms in the future. Talk to your doctor to see if these fall allergy treatments are right for you.

For additional advice, schedule an appointment with an allergist. He or she will conduct a skin test to officially diagnose you for ragweed allergy and provide personalized treatments.

By taking preventative measures and stocking up on treatments for fall allergies, you can feel great all season long.