Seasonal Allergies: Autumn
Itching, Puffy, Watery Eyes
Most of us associate hay fever or season allergies with spring and summer, but for some allergy sufferers, the end of summer signals the start of their seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, just because the lush growth of summer is dying back and turning the green landscape into a fall foliage spectacular is not an indication of the absence of allergens. In fact, the autumn brings its own assortment of allergy triggers.
A survey done in 2002 revealed that 94% of patients with allergies said that their quality of life deteriorated because of them; itching, runny nose and eyes, puffiness, sneezing and redness can all be included in the list of possible symptoms. The two most common causes of fall allergy season are ragweed and mould.
Most ragweed allergy issues are caused by two species, the normal/small ragweed (Ambrosia aratemisfolia) and the giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI), ragweed pollen is released from the middle of August until about the middle of October. While it is most commonly found in the middle and eastern provinces, all areas of Canada have some form of ragweed.
Residents along the west coast can be happy that they have to deal with much less ragweed pollen than elsewhere, but they have their own problems because of mould. Due to higher levels of precipitation and humidity, there is much more mould growth in these areas. Mould spores peak in the late summer and early fall and are found both indoors and outdoors.
Outdoor moulds can be found in falling leaves, vegetation, rotting wood and soil. Indoor types of mould like the damp areas around laundry machines, refrigerators, shower stalls, trash containers, basements and upholstery. School carpets, which tend to be older, an also be a mould source, because of dampness and earlier flooding. Generally, any area that is moist and dark can support mould growth.
Allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose (rhinitis)
- Nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
- Swelling of eyelid and surrounding tissues
- Blurred vision
- Myokymia (eyelid twitching)
- Redness of the eyes and surrounding tissues
Patients should be aware of these symptoms, especially if they experience any of them spontaneously and/or only during a specific season.
Autumn allergies are treated in the same way other ocular allergies are, with ice packs to reduce swelling and redness and antihistamines (either over-the-counter or by prescription) in topical (eyedrops) or oral.
The best treatment for any type of allergy is to avoid the allergens causing it, but this is not always possible if the mould spores are present in school carpeting, for example.
For more effective diagnosis and treatment, it may be recommended that testing be done to determine the exact cause(es), and to rule out other conditions like dry eye syndrome or ocular inflammatory conditions.
Allergy triggers can occur anywhere and everywhere, and in any season. Just because the allergen isn’t as obvious as flowering plants and trees does not mean it isn’t there, or that it can’t cause allergy symptoms.
See your eyecare practitioner if you have any of the symptoms listed above; an accurate diagnosis is necessary for the best and most effective treatment.