When we think of seasonal allergies, most of us immediately think of the pollen explosion in the spring time.
But allergy symptoms such as an itchy throat, read eyes, sniffles and sneezing can happen in autumn as well.
When the leaves start falling off trees and the air starts to cool, they spread pollen and trigger allergies that can really cause a damper on your day.
More than that, extra humidity in autumn can increase the growth of mould spores outdoors and indoors, bringing about a host of other issues that can create health problems.
We share some tips below on how to reduce the risk of developing allergies this autumn:
1. Reduce your exposure to pollen
Monitor your local pollen count. You can do this online at weatherzone.com.au or even at asthmaaustralia.org.au. If you have a smartphone, you should be able to easily find apps that monitor and notify you of the current pollen count based on your location.
Stay indoors as much as possible especially during peak hours (usually mid-morning to early afternoon), or if you have to go outside, wear a mask to filter out pollen.
Indoors, keep windows closed to stop outdoor pollen from coming in, and remove your shoes and jacket before entering your home so that you don’t track in any pollen that you’ve picked up outside.
And of course, vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly, and wash your clothes, linen, and curtains regularly. Bathe your pets, especially outdoor dogs and cats, frequently.
2. Get rid of mould and mildew
Mould and mildew grow from and produce spores that are spread by the wind or indoor air, and they grow year-round. They thrive indoors and outdoors, and in autumn, they can grow easily on damp fallen leaves and compost piles. Indoors, they drive in damp indoor areas like basements, bathrooms and kitchens.
Unlike pollen, mould and mildew aren’t killed by the cold; instead, they go into a dormant phase during the winter months. That’s why it’s so important to prevent them from getting into your home before winter starts.
To stop mould and mildew, it’s important to keep moisture levels indoors at the optimum level (~ 50% RH or Relative Humidity Level).
Some tips on protecting your home from mould:
- Ensure there is proper ventilation inside your home, especially in bathrooms, showers, the kitchen, laundry rooms, and bedrooms.
- Clean kitchens, bathrooms, and utility rooms thoroughly to help reduce mould. Fridge seals and window frames can harbour mould.
- Don’t dry clothes indoors as this will increase humidity levels indoors. If you have to, use a dehumidifier to help reduce humidity level and dry clothes indoors faster.
- C0nsider having fewer houseplants, and change the soil to avoid mould growth.
- Avoid humidifiers if possible, but if they are needed, keep humidity to a lower level and follow instructions on emptying and cleaning.
- Outdoors, rake your yard of fallen leaves and remove leaves from gutters.
- Don’t leave piles of leaves in your garden
- Keep compost and waste piles away from your hose
- Empty your bins regularly
3. Reduce dust mites
Dust mites feed primarily on flakes of human skin that are shed naturally around the home. It’s next to impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites, but you can take steps to keep them at a manageable level.
Clean air vents throughout the house before turning the central heating unit on for the first time after summer. Cover your mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers (dust mites love the bedroom) and regularly wash all bedding in hot water.
Use a dehumidifier to keep the air below 50% humidity. Dust and vacuum your home regularly, and be sure to wear a filtering mask while cleaning.
4. Avoid pet dander and fur
Pet dander is comprised of dead skin that is shed by animals in the home. Up to 40% of people with seasonal allergies also have pet allergies, which are triggered by an extra-sensitive immune system reacting to dander, fur, saliva, or urine from pets.
If you are one of the 40%, avoid contact with furry pets, especially cats and dogs. Wash and groom pets regularly. Wearing a filtering mask can help keep your allergies in check.
Consider only allowing pets in specific areas of the home and keep them off your furniture. Keep litter boxes and pet bedding away from air vents, and use an air purifier to help clean the air of pet allergens.
5. Seek the right treatment
Ask your GP or an allergy specialist to recommend you the best medication for your allergy. Most allergy medication are available over-the-counter and some may need a prescription.
For a quick remedy, topical nasal sprays that are available over-the-counter work well for fast relief. They reduce the inflammation in the lining of your nose, and can usually be used daily, before and during allergy season.
Oral antihistamines are another recommended option, and they work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released during an allergic reaction. For itchy eyes, some simple anti-allergy eye drops can help.
Preparing yourself against allergies doesn’t mean staying indoors 24/7 in fear of pollen and other allergens.
Taking the precautions mentioned above can help make your allergies more manageable throughout the year.