Medical Director, Allergy and Clinical
Immunology (Oakland Campus)
Chief, Allergy-Immunology (Shadyside Campus)
Autumn means back to school, cooler weather and fall
foliage. Unfortunately, for many of us, it also means experiencing allergies to
ragweed and mold. With about 40 million Americans suffering from allergies, approximately
10 to 20 percent of the public is allergic to ragweed.
Ragweed flowers from mid-August to late October or until
the first frost. And although rain washes pollen away, it can help mold spores
to grow quickly outside – a pile of damp leaves is a prime example. Many people
that are allergic to pollens released in the spring are also allergic to
ragweed. Not only that, but ragweed can travel hundreds of miles from wind and therefore
spread to many areas.
Here are some common questions about allergies.
How do I know if I
There are indoor and
outdoor allergies, and it's important to understand the difference. Pets, dust mites, mold or cockroaches qualify as indoor
allergens. Outdoor allergies are trees, grass and weed pollens, as well as mold.
Allergy season is determined by pollen count, and varies by region. Usually,
tree pollen is active in early spring, grass in early summer, and weed in early
fall. For more detailed information, check your local listing which can provide
a more precise day-to-day pollen count.
Runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and
puffy eyes are all typical symptoms of allergies. Difficulty breathing could be
a sign of asthma and fever and chills indicate a cold or the flu. Colds get
better over a week to 10 days in most people while allergies tend to last
longer. Individuals with allergies will remember having the same symptoms at
the same time each year.
What can people suffering from seasonal allergies do to relieve symptoms?
over-the-counter medicine works best?
- Don’t open your windows.
- Use air conditioning.
- Clean your filters.
- If you exercise outside, avoid morning workouts
when pollen counts are higher. From sunrise to mid-morning, pollen counts are
high. Pollen counts are lower in early evening.
- Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Try over-the-counter antihistamines.
Every person responds differently to medication. There
are non-sedative antihistamine options that are recommended for daytime. Some
people like a saline nasal wash which will wash out some of the allergen that
gets in the nose. Nasal steroid sprays are prescription only and are the most
potent medical therapy.
There are also allergy (immunotherapy) shots that
modify the immune system and improve allergies long-term if you can identify
specific things that trigger your symptoms.
For specific treatment, see an allergist for a one-on-one
Where can I get
tested for allergies?
If you are experiencing common allergy symptoms for more
than two weeks and/or at consistent times throughout the year, visiting a board-certified allergist would be beneficial.
We have four sites at UPMC where you can be tested. The
locations are within the Falk allergy clinic in Oakland, our location at UPMC
Mercy, and our locations in Monroeville and Greensburg. To schedule an
appointment, call 412-648-6161 or visit UPMC's allergy website for more information.
Labels: allergy, immunology