An allergy is the body’s reaction to a substance, like pet dander, mold, certain foods, vermin debris, some medications, or pollen. Antibodies mistakenly identify the protein in the allergen as an invading enemy and take defensive action.
The reaction can be mild and temporary, or severe enough to need medications or even a trip to the emergency room. What many people think of as seasonal allergies are commonly referred to as hay fever, while the medical term is “seasonal allergic rhinitis.”
In Florida, since icy winters and drought-affected summers are relatively non-existent, flowers and trees bloom longer and continue producing pollen. Allergies are stronger and persist over an extended period. Different allergen-producing foliage peaks earlier, and at different times throughout the year.
Common Florida Allergens
Oak and pine season is from December through May, and again from October through November. Grass pollen season extends from April to October. Weed season for ragweed and dog fennel goes from May through December, with a secondary weed pollen season from March though July for sorrel and dock.
Ragweed is rampant all over Florida and is a prime cause of allergies, especially in Fall. Wind-blown ragweed allergens can travel for hundreds of miles. Just one plant produces more than one billion grains of pollen per season.
Proper, professional weed control is needed around the home and yard.
Mold thrives in damp, humid, and cool environments, especially in decaying plant matter – leaves and grass clippings, compost piles and rotting, wet wood. Mold spores spread like pollen allergens. Mold spreads easily indoors; it goes dormant in winter until temperatures warm again.
Clear plant matter; fix or remove rotting wood. Repair outside and inside to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mold.
Other Seasonal Allergy Triggers
Smoke (from fall campfires) is a common asthma trigger. Sit upwind of fires and carry inhalers.
Insect bites and stings can cause the life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Those allergic should always carry a prescribed epinephrine, wear shoes in the yard, keep food covered and not drink from open soft drink cans or glasses. Professionally treat for insects around the yard and home.
Food ingredients in many dishes can lead to dangerous allergic reactions, especially among children. Check food ingredients and let others know about your family’s food allergies.
Additional Tips to Manage and Control Your Fall Allergies
- Stay inside with closed doors and windows when pollen counts are at their highest.
- Clean cooling/heating vents and change filters each season, so trapped mold and other allergens do not get released into the house.
- Install a HEPA filter to eliminate harmful allergens and particles.
- Use a dehumidifier set to keep indoor humidity below 50%.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Ragweed and Grass Allergy Symptoms:
- Itchy, stinging, and watery eyes
- Scratchy throat and excess saliva
- Runny nose, nasal congestion, watery nose
- Asthma attacks (in severe cases)
- Trouble Sleeping
- Coughing and wheezing
Mold Allergy Symptoms:
All the symptoms of grass and ragweed allergies plus:
- Hives or worsening eczema
- Swollen Eyelids
- Upset Stomach
Note: Allergy symptoms are similar to and can often be confused with colds and the flu! Symptoms that persist over two weeks may indicate allergies, however, you may need to contact your doctor if a fever is present.
Medical Steps in Planning for Allergies
Some planning and steps can be taken to ensure that allergies don’t control your life and trap you inside your home. The key is to start treatment proactively before symptoms appear.
- Get tested to determine the specific pollens you are allergic to, and take the allergist’s advice and prescriptions. Allergy shots can significantly improve symptoms.
- Allergy immunotherapy treatments introduce small doses of an allergen to gradually acclimatize your body and induce long-term tolerance.
- Nasal saline sprays and steroids help reduce inflammation.
- Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines can help keep symptoms under control.
Non-medical Steps in Planning for Allergies
Track pollen counts at the National Allergy Bureau website (aaaai.org/nab) to minimize exposure. Your local weather report will often also include the pollen count.
Wear a dust mask to filter out pollen, especially when working outside.
Flush your eyes and wash hands often and keep them away from your face. Shower and wash hair after outdoor activities to remove any clinging pollen.
Men should shave regularly.
Change and wash all outdoor clothing promptly when returning to the home.
Avoid air-drying laundry outside.
Good Housekeeping for Combating Allergens
- Use air conditioning in the car and home to filter the air. Clean your HVAC system regularly, at least every three months.
- Purchase a HEPA filter or air filtration unit to effectively reduce the number of allergens in your home.
- Remove indoor plants or at least keep them to a minimum.
- Keep basements, bathrooms, and other humidity-prone rooms well-ventilated, or purchase a dehumidifier.
- Consider replacing carpeted floors with wood or tile.
- Prevent build-up and spread of mold by regularly cleaning garbage bins, sinks, and appliances with a bleach solution.
Being a Florida resident or visitor comes with a unique relationship with all the possible allergens in the air. At Allergy & Asthma Associates of Tampa Bay, our allergists are highly trained in testing, diagnosing, and treating allergies and asthma. If you’ve tried everything to treat your allergies, and nothing works, call us for an appointment at (813) 971-9743.