Why Fall Allergies are Getting Worse
Remember “Think globally, act locally?” It’s a good way to tackle problems you care about—such as hunger, the environment, or social change. Although the expression refers to big-picture issues, it’s a good way to think about health problems, too.
Including allergies. If you’ve never been allergic, you’ve probably sympathized with sufferers’ sniffles while figuring they’re mostly inconsequential. But many people don’t realize that allergies also have a strong connection to asthma. If you’ve ever felt your airways narrow or wheezed to breathe, you know those pollen counts matter.
Believe it or not, both global problems and local weather affect allergies. Especially in the fall, when grass pollens and ragweed are at all-time highs.
Climate Change and Allergies
One consequence of the worldwide warming trend is that with warmer seasons in general, weeds are flourishing. Because grasses and ragweed are growing for longer periods in many places, much more pollen is being released.
And it’s not just backyard or neighborhood weeds that matter. Picture a hazy covering of smoke from a forest fire, drifting widely. Pollen blankets entire areas in just the same way—so when counts are high, you’re affected.
Asthma and allergies often get worse when it rains.
Makes no sense, right? You’d think a nice rainstorm would clean the air, rinsing allergens away. It does. But not right away. During a downpour, pollen particles first become saturated and burst into smaller particles that are released in much higher concentrations. When asthma patients breathe these in, doctors call resulting attacks “thunderclap asthma.”
Those clouds of tiny particles affect upper airways, too, causing "ordinary" allergy symptoms—sneezing, watery eyes, and sore throats.
You can still minimize pollen’s impact in your home during fall. Good dust control measures are your first defense.
When it starts to rain, keep doors and windows closed at first to give the pollen a chance to be thoroughly washed away. After a while, you can re-open windows to enjoy fresh, rain-sweet air.
Some pollen will still wind up in your home—you can’t seal yourself indoors. You open doors to go in and out; pollen also rides in on clothing, hair, pets and parcels. And because of the time you spend in bed, it’s especially important to protect mattresses and pillows. Organic mattress encasements and allergy pillow covers will prevent pollen from building up in your bedding.
With these basic changes you can enjoy fall’s beauty and great thunderstorms, too.