November 14, 2022

Allergies on High Alert: How to Navigate Current Airborne Triggers

Allergies can strike at any time. While some seasons are associated with higher airborne allergy counts (hello, spring!), allergens may be floating through the air during any season.

Find out what allergies are in the air today — and find out how to determine allergy counts on any given day.

How do I know what allergies are in the air today?

There are two types of basic allergens: environmental and seasonal. Environmental allergens may linger in the air at any time, whereas seasonal allergens are generally only a problem during certain seasons.

Any airborne allergen may cause respiratory issues, and many seasonal and environmental allergies may become airborne.

If you suffer from outdoor allergies (such as pollen or mold), you may want to check the local pollen counts and air quality rating on a weather app or website before going outside. And if you suffer from indoor allergens (such as animal, dust or mold), you may want to get your home checked for these allergens (or take medication to manage pet allergy symptoms).

Why are my allergies so bad?

There’s no easy way to say this, but allergy symptoms have gotten worse over the years.

Symptoms have worsened because of a wide variety of reasons, but one phenomenon that has increased allergies the most may be global warming. Experts believe that rising temperatures have led to warmer weather, shorter winters, earlier springs and longer summers and autumns.

When the temperatures don’t drop below freezing in the winter, pollen counts may be higher in the spring. And when spring begins earlier, pollen season may start earlier in the year, too.

To add insult to injury, the increase in greenhouse gasses and pollution may even make respiratory conditions (such as allergies and asthma) worse, too.

If you live in an urban area with high pollution counts (such as New York City or Los Angeles), you may notice that your symptoms are much more severe — even though there may be fewer pollinating plants and trees there.

On the West Coast, forest fires have been devastating dry areas and exacerbating symptoms of respiratory conditions, too.

If you suffer from allergies and other respiratory conditions, such as asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis, your allergy symptoms may be worse than if you just suffered from allergies alone.  

Which allergens are airborne?

Any allergens that are light enough may become airborne. Both indoor and outdoor allergens may be airborne, and both seasonal and environmental allergens may become airborne, too.

Once an allergen becomes airborne, it may land on your hair or skin; if the allergen is a small particle, it may enter your mouth or nose to enter your respiratory system or get into your eyes.

Environmental Allergens

Environmental allergens are allergens that exist in a particular environment, whether that environment is outdoors or indoors. When it comes to environmental allergy symptoms, it may not matter what season it is, as these allergens may be more abundant in certain environments — not seasons.

Animal Allergens

Animals don’t create allergens only during certain seasons. If you suffer from animal allergies, you may experience symptoms whenever you’re subjected to these animals.

Some people experience severe symptoms when they’re around certain types of animals. Some of the most common animals that may cause allergy symptoms include cats, dogs, rodents, insects and horses.

If you’re an animal lover, you may find yourself suffering from allergy symptoms simply because you can’t bear giving up your beloved cat or dog. Even if you don’t suffer from animal allergies, it’s not easy to avoid contact with all animals — especially when visiting friends or riding public transportation.

Even if you’re never around pets, you may still be subjected to pests, such as rodents, cockroaches and mites.

Most people believe they’re allergic to animal hair, only to find out that it’s the animal’s dander, saliva and excrement that are causing symptoms. Animal dander is simply dried skin that flakes off and becomes airborne, causing allergy symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and nose and more.

Dust and Dust Mites

Dust and dust mites are two separate types of allergens. Dust mites are insects; people that suffer from animal allergies are often allergic to dust mites. Yet, these mites live in dust, so it’s often difficult to differentiate between a mite and a dust allergen.

Dust is often not visible to the naked eye when it’s laying on a surface. But when you swipe your finger or a cloth on a surface, you’ll often find them covered in a thin layer of dust. Once dust becomes visible is when you need to start worrying that dust mites are nearby.

Dust may cause more serious allergy symptoms when there is less air circulation, including during colder months or on rainy days when windows are shut and fans are turned off.

Mold, Fungus and Mildew

These three allergens cause both environmental and seasonal allergies.

Mold, mildew and fungus may grow whenever there’s high humidity or moisture; low air circulation may expedite mold, mildew and fungus growth.

This simply means that these allergens may grow indoors whenever the conditions are right. They also commonly grow in the late summer and fall when there’s more rainfall and more organic matter (such as fallen leaves) to trap that moisture.

Old homes and homes with poor air circulation are also more likely to harbor mold, fungus and mildew growth. Symptoms may also exacerbate in cooler months, as closing windows and turning off fans may lead to poor air circulation.

Seasonal Allergens

Seasonal allergies differ from region to region in the U.S. If you live in the Northeast, you may experience outdoor allergies in the spring, summer and fall because the plants and trees lie dormant in the winter; whereas, you may experience allergies year-round if you live in a warmer climate.

Fall Allergens

Common fall allergens may include mold, mildew, fungus and ragweed.

Since ragweed blooms in the late summer and early fall, this allergen often causes symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, itching, and more from August through October.

Rainy conditions along the Eastern Seaboard in the autumn (hello, hurricane season) may cause similar symptoms from August through November (though climate change may be elongating hurricane seasons, as well).

Also, any environmental allergy may also be a fall allergy, as these may worsen when the windows shut and fans turn off as the weather gets chilly or on rainy fall days.

Summer Allergens

Summer allergens may include ragweed, mold, mildew and fungus.

Any plant that releases pollen in the summer (such as ragweed) may also be a summer allergen, though these plants may vary depending on your location.

Whenever rainfall increases, mold, mildew and fungus are more likely to flourish.

The good news is that many of us keep our windows shut in the summer but the air conditioners and fans are turned on high.

Closing the windows may help keep out outdoor allergens, such as pollen; turning on air conditioners and fans (especially ones equipped with HEPA filters) may help prevent pollen and mold spores from settling indoors.

Spring Allergens

Many allergy sufferers experience the most severe symptoms in the spring. This is because there are many plants and trees blooming and releasing pollen in the spring months.

Some of the most common allergens that cause symptoms in the spring include tree pollen, grass pollen and grass. Depending on where you live, pollen counts may be extremely high in the spring.

During this time of year, it’s best to keep windows and doors shut to keep pollen spores outside.

Pollen is an extremely sticky substance that can easily affix itself to clothes, skin, hair and other surfaces. Removing your clothing after you first arrive home and showering before bed can help to keep outdoor allergens outdoors.

Pets that go outside may also track pollen throughout your home.

Winter Allergens

Winter allergies are often triggered by environmental allergens. When we close windows and turn off fans and air conditioners in the cooler months, we keep outdoor allergens outside — but we may also trap indoor allergens inside, too.

Common winter allergens may include pet dander, pest dander, dust, mold, mildew and fungus. If you suffer from any of these allergies, you may want to take extra measures in the winter to avoid them or prevent symptoms.

Treating Airborne Allergen Symptoms

There are three ways to treat allergy symptoms: avoidance, medication and natural treatments.

While avoidance may be the best way to keep allergy symptoms at bay (you can’t get allergies if you’re not exposed to allergens), it may not be possible to avoid some allergens altogether. When you can’t avoid allergens, medical and natural treatments may help to address symptoms.

Allergen Avoidance

The most effective way to reduce allergies is to avoid allergens altogether.

Check pollen counts on a weather app or website in the morning and consider staying indoors when counts are high. If you need to leave your home, remove your pollen-saturated clothes when you return and take a shower to wash pollen from your skin and hair.

If you’re allergic to animals, avoid farms or homes with pets.

Use vacuums, fans, air conditioners and air purifiers with HEPA filters to keep indoor allergens at bay.

Allergy Medications

Allergens are essentially harmless to the body, and it’s the immune system’s overreaction to these allergens that causes uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms. When allergens enter the body, the immune system releases histamines to “attack” the allergen.

Histamines cause inflammation, itching, redness, watery eyes and nose and respiratory issues.

Antihistamine is the active ingredient in many popular allergy medications and blocks histamine release. You’ll find antihistamine oral tablets, nasal spray and eye drops.

Steroid nasal sprays and saline sprays have also been found effective at treating allergy symptoms.

Allergy medications don’t treat the root cause of allergies (only the symptoms) and won’t prevent further allergy attacks. Antihistamines and steroids may also cause uncomfortable side effects, such as dry mouth, drowsiness and gastrointestinal issues.

Preventing Airborne Allergies

Most allergy treatments simply treat the symptoms and not the root cause of allergies.

Since allergies are simply the immune system releasing histamines and essentially attacking itself, the body must learn to stop seeing allergens as a threat to prevent allergy attacks.

Allergy immunotherapy has been proven effective at teaching the body to stop overreacting to allergens.

Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy is an effective way to prevent allergy symptoms and treat allergies at their source. There are currently two types of allergy immunotherapy available, including subcutaneous and sublingual immunotherapy.

Both subcutaneous and sublingual immunotherapy introduces a small number of allergens to the system, and the body stops seeing allergens as a threat. Over time, the immune system will release less histamine in response to the allergens — and may even stop releasing histamines altogether.

Subcutaneous Immunotherapy

Otherwise known as allergy shots, subcutaneous immunotherapy introduces a small number of allergens to the system through an injection.

These shots are usually administered once a week during the build-up phase and monthly during the maintenance phase.

Allergy shots are effective and relatively safe. There’s a chance of anaphylaxis (especially if you have a history of anaphylaxis), so your doctor may require you to stay for observation for up to 45 minutes after your injection.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Similar to subcutaneous immunotherapy, sublingual immunotherapy introduces small amounts of allergens to the body.

The only difference? Sublingual immunotherapy is administered orally, usually underneath the tongue.

Since there’s less chance of anaphylaxis, patients may self-administer doses at home. Doses must be administered daily during the build-up phase.

Curex’s at-home sublingual immunotherapy is easy to administer and may be done so in the comfort of your own home. You won’t need to travel to a doctor’s office weekly to receive doses, and sublingual immunotherapy may be less expensive than allergy shots if paying out of pocket.

Take our free quiz to find out if at-home immunotherapy is right for you. Or, contact one of our care managers to find out more.

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