Fall Is Here and So Are Seasonal Allergies

October 13, 2011
Fall Is Here

As the leaves change color and the weather cools, many Downriver families will be reaching for a rake — and a tissue.

“Seasonal allergies are common, but they’re treatable,” says Haejin Kim, M.D., an allergist who recently joined Henry Ford Health Center – Brownstown, after completing her fellowship in allergy and immunology.

The main trigger for fall allergies is ragweed, which begins to bloom in mid-August and lasts until the first frost. Since this coincides with the start of the school year, and because schools often harbor two other major culprits — mold and tiny organisms known as dust mites — parents may notice more runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing and other symptoms.

Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital and its Brownstown facility offer a full range of services for adults and children who suffer from seasonal allergies. The first step is to schedule an initial evaluation, including a complete history. This typically is followed by a skin test, which involves pricking the skin and placing a small drop of ragweed extract or any other suspected allergen on the area. If the skin develops a small, temporary area of redness and itching, it might be an indication of an allergy.

“Many patients like this test, because we do it right in front of them and they get the results immediately,” says Dr. Kim.

Once potential allergens have been identified, allergists can recommend many treatments, including tips for how to avoid allergens, oral antihistamines, nasal steroids, eye drops or allergy injections.

Dr. Kim and other Henry Ford allergists also treat patients who suffer from other chronic allergies — including asthma, food allergies and drug allergies — as well as those who are affected by related immune system deficiencies. It was this opportunity to build long-term relationships with her patients that drew Dr. Kim to the allergy and immunology field.

“Allergies and related conditions can seriously affect a person’s quality of life, so it’s very rewarding to be able to help my patients manage these issues,” says Dr. Kim. “Nobody should have to live in a bubble.”

Don’t fall for seasonal allergies

You can run, but it’s hard to hide from ragweed. During late summer and most of autumn, people with ragweed allergy sneeze, rub their eyes, blow their nose and mark time till the first freeze ends the fall allergy season.

While you’re waiting, try these proven pollen-avoidance tips:

  • Minimize early-morning activity; most pollen appears between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Use an air conditioner at home and in your car to avoid open windows and fans.
  • Bathe or shower after being outside or before bedtime to wash pollen off your hair and skin.
  • If you’re vacationing, try the beach or seaside. Save camping for another time.
  • Avoid stirring up pollen; let someone else mow the lawn and rake leaves.
  • Dry clothes in a dryer, not on the clothesline.

If avoidance fails, ask your doctor about medications, such as antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, decongestant pills or sprays, or allergy shots. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology advises starting prescribed medications 10 to 14 days before your area’s ragweed season peaks.