Your Fall Allergy Forecast is Here – What to Know

Posted: September 10, 2021 11:10 am

Delta Variant Makes it Challenging to Distinguish Between Fall Allergies and COVID-19

With the passing of Labor Day, the unofficial start to fall is here. While fall does not officially begin until the equinox on September 22, there has been a definite change to the weather in many parts of the nation. A new season brings a whole new set of potential allergy triggers. Here is what you can expect this fall for allergies in the US.

Ragweed the Primary Culprit

The most common allergy trigger during the fall months is ragweed. The pollen from this type of plant is prevalent in North America, making it the most significant contributor to seasonal allergies during autumn. Mold is another likely irritant during fall allergy season because it easily grows in damp leaves.

Allergy symptoms vary between individuals with the most common symptoms manifesting as runny nose, congestion, eye irritation, and sneezing. Depending on the individual’s tolerance level, the symptoms may be a slight nuisance or a serious health issue.

The weather can also greatly influence how bad the allergies are at any given time. The typical fall allergies can set in well before the first day of the season, especially in cooler climates.

What to Expect in Different Regions This Fall

When and how severe the fall allergens will hit largely depends on where you live. Here is what to expect in different regions of the US.

  • Great Lakes – If you typically suffer from fall allergies and you live in the Great Lakes, you may see relief earlier this year. The current long-range forecast shows a push of cold air into the region earlier than average. This air will stop the formation and continuation of pollen, effectively ending the fall allergy season in this region.
  • Pacific Northwest – Similar to the Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest and the western mountain states will see an earlier end to fall allergy season because of the arrival of cooler air. However, northern Idaho and Montana are predicted to see lingering warm air, potentially prolonging the pollen in this area.
  • Plains States – The central and southern Plains are forecast to experience a roller coaster of temperature extremes in the coming months, keeping pollen levels at average levels this fall. However, the northern Plains states will be more likely to see an earlier relief from the high pollen levels.
  • Southwest – While the ongoing drought has not been good news for the Southwest, this weather pattern will bring a bit of a reprieve to allergy sufferers. Because there has been a significant lack of precipitation, weed and grass growth has been severely limited in this region. However, the ongoing poor air quality indexes at the hands of wildfires will serve to exacerbate existing allergy symptoms.
  • Southeast, Gulf Coast, and Mid-Atlantic – The news is not good for the Southeast, Gulf Coast, and the mid-Atlantic. As tropical weather continues to fire up throughout this corner of the country, the persistent moisture will fuel vegetation growth. This growth will increase pollen levels and misery for allergy sufferers.
  • Northeast – An expected early freeze will help to put an end to the fall allergy season in the Adirondacks and throughout central and northern New England. However, the southern part of New York state stretching down into the mid-Atlantic will still be contending with tropical moisture for some time, keeping the threat of pollen high on this part of the East Coast.

How to Best Treat Fall Allergies

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those individuals who are prone to fall allergies should check local pollen forecasts and avoid spending time outside when the levels are high. You should also avoid touching your eyes when spending time outdoors. Once you come back inside, it is a good idea to wash your hands immediately. Showering after being outside in an attempt to remove the pollen from your skin and hair is another good preventative measure.

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Keeping your windows closed when pollen levels are high will keep the irritant out of your home. Installing high-efficiency filters for your home’s heating and air conditioning systems is another protective step.

Over-the-counter allergy medications can provide targeted relief for sufferers. An allergist is a good source of information and advice when looking to relieve symptoms.

Allergies and COVID-19

What was once a nuisance is now cause to step back and wonder if you have COVID-19. Unfortunately, there is a large overlap in COVID-19 symptoms and run-of-the-mill allergies, making it challenging to distinguish between the two. While both issues cause a runny nose, drainage, and a sore throat, allergies are more likely to produce an itchy nose, eyes, and throat.

Allergy symptoms are also more likely to come and go depending on the current pollen count levels. Conversely, COVID-19 symptoms tend to worsen over time before a patient finally turns the corner.

The onset of the Delta variant and the increase in vaccinated individuals are also making it more difficult to distinguish between allergies and COVID-19. For example, during the earlier strains of the virus, infected individuals were more likely to experience a fever as a major symptom. Those people with breakthrough cases after being vaccinated do not usually present with a fever.

If your symptoms are getting worse and not improving after taking allergy medication, there is a good chance that you may have been infected with COVID-19. The odds of this are even higher if you have not been vaccinated.