Some people assume that once hay fever season ends, allergy sufferers can sit back and relax. Actually, autumn is a peak allergy season!
In the autumn, we spend more time indoors, crank up the central heating and shut the windows. This creates perfect conditions for troublesome mould spores and dust mite allergens to thrive which can cause allergy symptoms.
As the weather gets chillier, those of us with asthma and eczema may also find that our symptoms get worse.
Here is an overview of some of the key autumn allergy triggers with tips on how to minimise their impact...
Moulds release spores, to which some people are allergic. Mould spores can also worsen asthma and allergic rhinitis.
To survive and reproduce, moulds need moisture, oxygen and food. For moulds, 'food' can be anything from minerals and sugars to decaying matter. They're not fussy!
Many modern homes provide plenty of moisture, oxygen and food for moulds. Home ventilation can be poor in the autumn and winter when we close our windows. Furthermore, good insulation and central heating can lead to increased humidity.
Mould spores are often released when there are environmental changes. Examples of these changes are:
- When moist conditions become warm
- when the central heating first goes on in a damp house
- When plants are brought into a warmer interior.
Physical disturbance helps to disperse mould spores.
Outside, as the leaves fall and the weather gets damp, outdoor moulds thrive in grass cuttings, compost heaps and piles of rotting leaves.
What are the symptoms of mould allergy?
Mould allergy symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Itching eyes, throat and nose
Symptoms range in type and severity and people can be allergic to different types of moulds. Mould spores can also be an asthma trigger. Speak to your GP about a preventative treatment plan if this affects you.
Mould can also produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can trigger symptoms of chemical sensitivity, including tiredness, headaches and depression.
What can you do to reduce mould levels at home?
- Check for signs of damp in places like window and door frames and fix leaks.
- Use a dehumidifier in musty or damp areas and aim for below 50% relative humidity. A hygrometer can help you identify which areas of your home are too humid.
- Ventilate and clean bathrooms particularly thoroughly - these are are key sources of mould. Try to avoid using carpet in bathrooms as these can harbour mould spores.
- Don't hang wet clothes over radiators; this can increase humidity, encouraging mould to proliferate.
- Consider an air purifier or air steriliser to remove mould spores. These will also help to remove other allergens and impurities from your indoor air.
Click here to read more about mould allergy.
2. Dust mites
Dust mites love warm, humid conditions. They thrive in the autumn and winter. This is because ventilation is poor, the weather is damp and the central heating is on.
Dust mites are present in the vast majority of homes, even the cleanest ones! Their favourite foods (keratin, cellulose fibres and chitin) are abundant in most modern homes. These come from skin cells, textiles and fungi. Dust mites are present in most bedding, carpets and soft furnishings.
What are the symptoms of dust mite allergy?
Dust mite allergy can cause symptoms such as:
- Runny or congested nose and sneezing
- Less commonly, skin problems like eczema.
Some people find that their symptoms are worse in the mornings after spending the night in bed where dust mites are present. Dust mites are also believed to be asthma and eczema triggers.
What can you do to reduce dust mite levels in your home?
- Encase your bedding in dust mite proof barrier cases. You can also wash bedding and bed linen regularly at 60 degrees to kill dust mites.
- Use our allergy sprays to help control airborne allergens like dust mites, without insecticides.
- Remove sources of damp. Consider using a dehumidifier to keep relative humidity below 50%. We don't usually recommend an rH level of below 40% as this can worsen respiratory problems.
- An efficient air purifier or air steriliser is helpful to clean the air in the room.
- Don't neglect rugs, curtains and soft furnishings. These can all be dust mite breeding grounds. Wash them often using an anti-allergen solution such as FabriCleanse.
To learn more about dust mite allergy, click here.
3. Cold weather
According to Asthma UK, three quarters of people who have asthma find that cold air makes their symptoms worse.
Autumn colds brought on by the change in weather can also affect the airways. As the seasons change and the weather gets chillier, it's important to be aware of this potential trigger.
What can you do to stay well in cold conditions?
- Wrap up warm on chilly days. We recommend trying a Cold Weather Mask with a warm, fleecy lining. This helps to protect you from respiratory problems caused by the cold.
- Keep your inhalers on you at all times and use as directed by your GP.
- Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about using your inhaler correctly.
- Call Asthma UK’s Helpline if you are worried about your asthma on 0800 121 62 44.
- An air purifier can help you create a 'safe haven' at home by removing allergens and irritants from your indoor air.
Click here to read more about asthma.
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Disclaimer: Information included in this website is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner.