The fall season is synonymous with Frankenstein and flu. But there's another foe to be wary of — allergies.
This year's warm and rainy fall weather along the Mid-Atlantic has aggravated ragweed and mold allergies, experts say, bringing forward more itchy, red eyes and sniffles.
Allergies are just as pervasive in September and October as in spring when the flowers and trees are first in bloom. There are just different triggers.
Fine-powder ragweed pollen peaked in mid-September, explained Dr. Quan Nguyen, of Asthma and Allergy Care of Delaware, and is the most common fall allergy in the First State. Now, there's more of an issue with mold, he said, thanks to the wet weekends Delaware's endured and post-Hurricane Matthew rain and flooding.Damp, rainy weather provides a perfect environment for mold to grow. Mold spores build when the humidity is high and spread when the weather is dry and windy.
"Mold is still lingering a little bit ," Ngyuen said.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that when the weather progressively cools, ragweed remains a problem until the first frost of the year. Ragweed is one of the main culprits of hay fever and typically begins pollinating in mid-August. Hay fever impacts about 23 million Americans.
A good frost typically kills ragweed, Ngyuen said.
"A lot of places are still looking for that first frost in October," adds Paul Walker, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.
Even with unseasonably warm highs this week, Delaware is having a pretty typical fall, Walker said. Temperatures so far in Wilmington only registered a little more than a degree above normal and the lowest temperature has been 39 degrees.Frost may on the way, Walker said, but it doesn't look to be happening throughout Delaware.
If temperatures rise a bit, pollen and mold allergies could linger even longer. And if allergies continue, they will cross with flu-like symptoms.
The easiest way to figure out the difference between influenza and allergies is to monitor your body temperature, Ngyuen said. If you have a fever and chills, it's the flu.
The key to beating allergies is treatment early and often. Flonase, a popular nasal steroid, is available over-the-counter. Allergy shots can desensitize the immune system and help the body build resistance against symptoms.
For those adverse to needles the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved allergy tablets for ragweed and grass. Called sublingual immunotherapy, the tablets dissolve under the tongue and work the same way as shots.
It is more convenient for those with seasonal allergies Ngyuen said.
Start all treatments at least two weeks before fall allergy season strikes. Allergy tablets must be started about 12 weeks before ragweed season.
"Prevention, prevention, prevention," Ngyuen said. "Don't wait until you have symptoms."