Tips for coping with fall allergies

Posted Monday, Oct. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Relief from the heat isn’t relief at all for fall allergy sufferers, as the change in season brings itchy eyes, scratchy throats, headaches and runny noses. Many of us have kept the tissues nearby since about Labor Day.

Dr. David Khan, professor of internal medicine and pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says ragweed is climbing the charts, and it doesn’t seem to have yet hit its peak — meaning fall allergies are here to stay.

Here are some doctor-recommended remedies for fall allergy sufferers. If all else fails, remember that, at the very least, the triple-digit days are gone.

Stay indoors

Dr. Jon Sivoravong, associate professor of family medicine at the UNT Health Science Center, says avoidance is the best remedy for allergy sufferers. Because fall allergens in North Texas — typically ragweed and elm — are outdoors, he suggests staying inside when possible.

Khan says that ragweed counts typically peak in the afternoon, so if you want to work in a jog or other outside activities, it’s best to schedule them in the morning.

Take an over-the-counter antihistamine

The most common way to treat allergies is by taking medicine. Khan recommends Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec as three readily available antihistamines that used to be available only by prescription.

Frequency of dose depends largely on the severity of one’s allergies, he says. The pills typically kick in quickly, so some people choose to take them on an as-needed basis; however, he says, it’s good practice to get in the routine of taking the medicine daily if you suffer from allergies for an entire season.

Use a saline spray

Dr. Sarah Meredith, a physician at Baylor Family Medicine at Fort Worth, suggests an over-the-counter nasal saline spray as a more natural remedy for allergy sufferers.

“They help keep moisture in the nose and rinse out any allergens that may have come into the nose,” she says.

Sivoravong recommends saltwater flushes for allergy relief: “You’re going to be flushing out the allergens and eliminating pollen from the nasal passage.”

Know the enemy

It’s always good to know what’s in the air, so Sivoravong pointed to The website allows allergy sufferers to enter their city or ZIP code to check the allergy forecast — each day is given a level of severity, and it lists the day’s most predominant pollens. When the alerts are orange and red, it may be best to hit the treadmill instead of jogging outdoors.

Shower before bed

After spending a lot of time outside, it’s worth changing clothes and taking a shower.

“Allergens will stick to your body and to your clothes,” Meredith says.

Khan calls hair a “pollen magnet” and recommends showering before bed, as the pollens will transfer from hair to a pillow, creating a hotbed of allergens.

Talk to a doctor

If over-the-counter medicines aren’t offering relief, it’s time to visit a general physician or allergist.

Khan says there are three options for prescription nasal sprays: a nasal steroid, nasal antihistamine or a combination of the two, which can help fight severe allergies.

Allergy shots are also an option for those looking to avoid a daily pill or spray.

In some cases, doctors might recommend a slate of tests for specific allergies.

“People who don’t feel that their allergies are being effectively managed can get tested,” Khan says. “But if they’re just taking a few antihistamines in the fall and spring, it’s usually not worth it.”

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