Skip to content

Allergies Health Center

Fall Allergies and Sinusitis

Autumn has arrived, and you can’t stop sneezing and sniffling. You may be suffering from allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Font Size
A
A
A
By David Freeman
WebMD Feature

Autumn has arrived, and you don’t feel so good. You can’t stop sneezing and sniffling. The return of cool weather leaves you feeling not invigorated but miserable.

What’s going on? You may be suffering from pollen allergy, a.k.a. allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Thirty million Americans do, and symptoms typically flare in fall.

Recommended Related to Allergies

Spotting Hidden Allergy Triggers

If you've been living with allergies, you probably know the obvious stuff by now -- don't take in stray cats, don't hang around in dusty attics, don't inhale deeply in smoking lounges. But that might not be enough. There could be hidden allergy triggers and irritants all around you that you don't know about. "Hidden allergens and irritants are a huge problem for people with allergies," says Hugh H. Windom, MD, an associate clinical professor of immunology at the University of South Florida...

Read the Spotting Hidden Allergy Triggers article > >

Like all allergies, hay fever stems from a glitch in the immune system. Instead of attacking harmful foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses, it tries to neutralize “invaders” that ordinarily are quite harmless -- in this case weed pollen grains that fill the air from August through October (up to the first frost).

In someone with hay fever, inhaling these tiny particles triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions, resulting in the release of histamine, a protein that causes the all-too-familiar symptoms. In addition to sneezing, congestion, and fatigue, histamine can cause coughing; post-nasal drip; itchy eyes, nose, and throat; dark circles under the eyes; and asthma attacks.

Ragweed: The Prime Cause of Fall Allergies

Many plant varieties can cause hay fever, but the 17 varieties of ragweed that grow in North America pose the biggest threat. Three out of four people who are allergic to pollen are allergic to ragweed.

A hardy annual, ragweed thrives just about anywhere turf grasses and other perennials haven’t taken root -- along roads and riverbanks, in vacant lots, and so on. Over the course of a single year, one ragweed plant can produce a staggering one billion grains of pollen. And it doesn’t fall harmlessly to the ground. It floats on the breeze. Pollen has been found hundreds of miles out to sea and two miles up into the atmosphere.

Given the profusion of pollen, is there anything hay fever sufferers can do to limit their misery?

Conventional wisdom says that hay fever sufferers should stay indoors during morning hours, because pollen counts are highest then. Not so, says Neil Kao, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. “I’ve reviewed 50 years of medical literature on this, and there is simply no proof that hay fever sufferers can minimize their symptoms by staying indoors or going outdoors at certain times of day. This is a myth that even many general physicians believe.”

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

blowing nose
Article
woman with sore throat
Article
 
lone star tick
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat lying on shelf
Article
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Assessment
Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching
Quiz