It's officially autumn and as the weather cools off and the leaves begin to change, a seasonal ailment is also waiting to rear its ugly head: Fall allergies.
Dr. Bradley T. Rankin, a certified allergist with an office on Kentucky Avenue, said the most common allergen in North America is ragweed. He said short, giant and other types of ragweed are prominent in the fall and trigger allergic reactions in people in the area.
He said those who suffer from fall allergies typically begin to experience symptoms in mid-August.
Symptoms, Rankin said, include sneezing, clear running nose, post-nasal drainage, itchy nose and throat, and stopped-up nose or nasal decongestion. The eyes are the most vulnerable to symptoms, as the nose and mouth are generally more protected, Rankin explained.
Some people also mistake seasonal allergies for allergies that are around all year, such as mold spores.
Rankin said reactions usually just increase in the fall months. Some people are also allergic to dust mites, which he said is a perennial allergy that hits in the late summer and early fall and relates to humidity.
In comparison, Rankin said spring allergy season usually lasts longer and is more weather dependent.
"Because of the weather the trees can pollinate some, stop, and pollinate again," he explained.
Allergies today come from a variety of sources. Some people are born with them, while others develop them, Rankin said.
"They are in part environmental and in part genetic," he explained. "Studies have found that they are increasing in prevalence overall with our Western diet and Western habits."
A hygiene hypothesis suggests that in the past people were fighting more bacteria due to unclean water and other issues and in turn developed stronger immune systems. Now, with more measures in place to keep water and foods clean and healthy and more vaccines for illnesses, immune systems are weaker and more prone to allergic reactions.
Rankin said there are several ways people can prevent and lessen allergies.
Avoidance measures, such as keeping windows closed in homes and cars, and washing hair and changing clothes at the end of the day can help prevent reactions. Keeping homes clear of dust mites and pet dander helps as well, Rankin said.
Allergy treatments include over the counter medications such as Zyrtec and Allegra and more extensive treatments that are obtained through a doctor. Rankin said he will administer allergy injections and prescribe tablets that address symptoms for longer lengths of time.
He said some sicknesses, especially in the fall, may not be allergies at all, but viral infections. With kids going back to school and more germs being passed around, Rankin said, those types of infections are quite common.