This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
While summer is viewed as hay fever season, autumn can bring its own set of allergy triggers too. Spending more time indoors with the windows shut, mould spores in damp places and rotting leaves, and even our pets can form the perfect storm for allergy sufferers. In this article we’ll look at the most common autumn allergens and how to avoid them.
House Dust Mites
House dust mites can be found all year round, but they can reach a peak in Autumn and Winter.
House dust mites are tiny insects that can’t be seen with the naked eye. They live in warm, damp places where dust containing skin flakes gathers, as this is what they eat. Pillows, mattresses, carpets, soft furnishings, soft toys, and even clothing can be perfect homes for house dust mites.
A house dust mite allergy is typically associated with asthma, eczema, and perennial allergic rhinitis.
Controlling the number of dust mites living in your home can help to minimise your allergic symptoms. You should concentrate on areas in the home where you send the most time, like bedrooms and living rooms.
To help prevent house dust mites:
- Keep your home well ventilated and free from damp
- Ditch carpets over concrete floors (as these can trap damp) in favour of wood or vinyl flooring
- Use blinds that can be easily cleaned
- Regularly wiping surfaces with a damp, clean cloth to avoid spreading dust into the air
- Choose leather, plastic or vinyl furniture instead of fabric
- Regularly clean cushions, soft toys, curtains, and upholstered furniture either by washing at 60°c (minimum) or vacuuming with a high filtration vacuum cleaner
- Cover mattresses, duvets, and pillows with tested allergy-proof covers
- Fitting a HEPA filter to your vacuum, as this traps more dust mites than normal vacuum cleaners
Similarly to house dust mites, mould can be found all year round but reaches its peak in mild, wet autumn weather, particularly when moisture builds up.
Mould can grow almost anywhere. Outdoors, it likes fallen, rotting leaves, soil, compost heaps, and dead plants. Indoors, mould likes to grow on decomposing food, uncleaned fridges, inside window frames, and on indoor materials like fabric, upholstery, and carpets.
So that mould can spread, it releases tiny particles into the air called spores. These mould spores can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
To help to prevent mould, you can:
- Keep your home dry and well ventilated
- Remove any indoor potted plants from your home
- Check roofs, floors, and walls for signs of condensation or damp
- Check your home for water leaks (paying particular attention to underneath sinks and around washing machines, refrigerators, bathtubs, and toilets)
- Avoid damp buildings, damp woods, rotting leaves, and compost heaps
- Keep your garden clear from fallen leaves
- Use extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens to minimise steam
Hay Fever (Weed Pollen)
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is caused by pollen in the air triggering allergic symptoms. Because different plants release their pollen at different times of year, the time you get hay fever will depend on what sort of pollen you are allergic to.
Typically, people will suffer with hay fever in spring due to tree pollen and summer due to grass pollen. However, some people may find that they are allergic to weed pollen, which reaches its peak in Autumn.
To manage your hay fever symptoms, you can:
- Follow pollen forecasts and stay indoors on high pollen count days (if possible)
- Avoid drying clothes and bedding outside on high pollen count days
- Keep doors and windows shut wherever possible
- Shower and change your clothes after spending time outside
- Avoid grassy areas, especially in the early morning, evening, or night as this is when pollen is at its peak
- Control symptoms like itching, sneezing and a runny nose with antihistamines