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Fall Allergies

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Updated May 12, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Autumn brings to mind images of crisp weather, changing leaves, school and football games -- and for those who are annual victims, fall allergies, too. For these folks, this favorite-for-many time of year brings symptoms like sneezing, stuffiness and fatigue right along with the harvest fun. From weed pollen allergies to concerns about allergies occurring at school, ragweed allergy to allergies on Halloween night, find out all you need to know about fall allergies.

Fall Pollen Allergies

Weed pollen is the main cause of hay fever symptoms in the late summer and early fall. Depending on the area of North America, these weeds include ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed (Russian thistle) and cocklebur.

Checking local pollen counts can be helpful in determining when and what types of weeds are pollinating, and certain avoidance measures can be followed to minimize pollen exposure and limit allergy symptoms.

Ragweed Allergy

In many areas of the United States, ragweed is the most common cause of fall pollen allergy. Ragweed pollen is spread through the air, and is too small to be seen with the naked eye. The pollen is highest during the morning hours, on windy days, or shortly after a rainstorm when the plant is drying out. Ragweed grows just about anywhere, especially in fields, along the sides of highways, and in vacant lots. This weed is especially common in the Midwestern states and along the East Coast of the United States, but can be found in many other parts of the world, including Europe and Hawaii.

Allergies Encountered at School

Children spend are large amount of their time at school. This can include time spent in the classroom and out, particularly during this time of year, when temperatures are still recess-friendly.

There is a good chance that a child's allergies or asthma will get worse at school, and it is recommended that each child have a plan to deal with those symptoms. This plan of action, which should involve a child's teacher, principal, and school nurse (if available), should address the need for allergy or asthma medications, dietary limitations, and the possible need for emergency medicines (such as injectable epinephrine) in the case of food allergy or venom allergy.

Even if your child's symptoms are milder in the fall and worse at other times of the year, it's wise to go over this plan with your child's school representatives as early in the year as possible.

Halloween and Food Allergies

Halloween night offers an opportunity for children to have a fun time trick-or-treating or attending Halloween parties. Many of these young children suffer from various food allergies that could present a serious problem if the wrong type of food is eaten accidentally. Since Halloween treats (especially chocolate and baked goods) may contain common food allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, and soy, children with food allergies need to take extra precautions on Halloween night.

Sources:

Bousquet J, van Cauwenberge P, Khaltaev N. Allergic Rhinitis and Its Impact on Asthma. J Clin Allergy Immunol. 2001;108:S147-344.

Halloween Fun for Children with Food Allergies. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Website. Accessed September 2, 2010.

Weber R. Ragweed. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2001;87:A.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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