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Yes, You Can Do Yard Work If You Have Fall Allergies — Here’s How
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The leaves may be piling up outside, but if you have fall allergies, you’ll need to take precautions to keep your allergy symptoms under control before heading outside to do yard work. Springtime isn’t the only season for outdoor allergies; many people — up to 23 million Americans — are affected by ragweed pollen, which usually reaches peak levels in late summer through fall, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Airborne mold is another common fall allergen.
Symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis typically include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and irritated nose and throat — all of which can make yard work miserable. But there are ways you can get control of your allergy symptoms and head outside this fall.
Stay on top of yard work.It’s important to keep your yard neat and tidy to help minimize allergens. Since mold and pollen can collect on fallen leaves, you should rake often. And the ACAAI recommends continuing to mow your lawn throughout the fall. Keeping grass short will help prevent it from flowering and producing pollen.
Try to do yard work later in the day.Ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning so try to do your yard work in the afternoon or early evening. And check the pollen levels in your area before heading outside. Websites like Weather.com and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) have tools that can help you track the pollen levels in your area. Ragweed counts tend to be highest on dry and windy days, and mold is highest after a rainstorm, says David Stukus, MD, a spokesperson for the ACAAI. If it’s a particularly high-pollen day, you may want to skip doing yard work or pay a local teen to rake the leaves.
Wear protective clothing when working outdoors.Dressing wisely can help minimize your exposure to pollen. Wear long sleeves, pants, and a hat to keep pollen off your skin and out of your hair. Sunglasses or other protective eyewear can help reduce the amount of pollen that gets into your eyes. You should also wear gardening gloves and be sure not to touch your eyes or nose when doing yard work.
Try wearing a filter mask.Many pharmacies carry these simple masks, which may be somewhat helpful in keeping pollen from getting into your nose and mouth. Get one that’s rated N95, a label given by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that means it filters out 95 percent of airborne particles that are bigger than 0.3 microns in size. This means the mask is effective in blocking even tiny ragweed pollen particles.
Take care when raking leaves.Leaves can soak up moisture, and mold can flourish in leaf piles. Raking can cause the mold to become airborne, so be sure to wear a mask while raking or ask someone else to do it.
Take off your clothing after you finish working outside.Pollen can be carried into the house when it settles onto your clothes, hair, and shoes, so be sure to remove your clothes as soon as you come back inside. You may also want to shower to rinse off any pollen in your hair.
Talk to your doctor about allergy medication.There are a number of medication options that are considered safe and effective and can help minimize your fall allergy symptoms, including steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, and immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual tablets). Ask your doctor if these options are right for you. You should also discuss when to start taking allergy medication — typically at least a week or two before the peak of fall allergy season — in order to get the full benefit. Sublingual tablets typically have to be taken 12 weeks before the start of ragweed season, so talk to your doctor well before fall begins.
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