Fall Allergies: What to Know About Causes, Symptoms and Care

The only way to be completely sure you don’t have Covid is to take a test — but there are a few clues to help pin down the source of your sniffles. Viral infections tend to develop suddenly, and then run their course, Dr. Parikh said, while allergies slog on for four or six or eight weeks at a time. And allergies — unlike colds, Covid and the flu — don’t usually cause fevers, body aches or gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, she said. Itchiness can be a telltale sign that you’re dealing with allergies, so watch out for scratchy, tingling ears, eyes, throats and noses, she added. Fall allergens can also cause rashes like eczema.

It’s important to monitor your allergy symptoms, in particular because allergies can trigger asthma. More than 4,000 people die from asthma each year, Mr. Mendez said, and Black Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma and five times more likely to be treated for it in an emergency room. Black women have the highest rate of mortality from asthma in the United States, he added. Emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to asthma tending to rise in the fall, partly because of allergies, Dr. Parik said; “People don’t realize how serious it is.”

Coughing, wheezing and chest tightness can be signs that an allergy has led to asthma, especially if you wake up in the middle of the night with these symptoms, Dr. Parikh said. If you feel winded, fatigued, or dizzy after mild physical activity, like household chores, or like you cannot complete your normal exercise routine, those may also be signs of the disease.

There are basic habits that can help mitigate the amount of pollen you track into your home. Keep your windows closed as much as possible, especially on sunny, windy days when pollen levels are particularly high, and remove your shoes at the door. You may also want to take a shower and change your clothes when you arrive home. HEPA air filters can help clean the air indoors and remove mold and dander. Try to vacuum your home more frequently, especially if you have pets, Dr. Hong said — daily if you can. Consider washing your sheets regularly as well, and if possible, keep your pets out of your bedroom, Dr. Hong said, so they don’t track pollen onto your pillow.

When you do go outside, you might want to wear a hat and sunglasses, Dr. Pham said, which can shield your face from pollen. (Masks may also mitigate symptoms.)

Medications are also a critical tool. Over-the-counter intranasal steroids like fluticasone and triamcinolone can help alleviate sniffling and congestion; Eye drops can wash away irritants and treat symptoms like itchy, red, watery eyes. These targeted interventions tend to be more helpful than oral antihistamines, Dr. Pham said, although oral antihistamine tablets can also alleviate symptoms — particularly itching, sneezing and runny nose. (Think Allegra or Zyrtec.) Some oral antihistamines, like Benadryl, may make people drowsy.

Some patients may want to turn to decongestants, like Afrin or Sudafed, Dr. Parikh said, but those medications can have a “rebound effect” — after you take them for a prolonged period, blood vessels in your nose do not respond as well, and you can end up with even worse congestion. If you want to refrain from medication, nasal irrigators like neti pots can rinse pollen out of your sinuses, but they won’t treat the allergy itself, she said.