If it’s fall in Maine, it must be allergy season

Although we typically associate allergy season with the spring, for many allergy sufferers, the fall can be just as bad. Ragweed and mold are the biggest triggers of allergies this time of year.
Symptoms of fall allergies may include itchy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, ear itching or popping, and throat irritation.  October is National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month, which makes this the perfect time for local families to make sure their homes are properly protected from fall allergens. 
According to the American Lung Association, people take an average of 21,600 breaths per day. With 80 percent of our time spent indoors, the quality of the air we breathe is very important.  Children who have been forced to spend a lot of time indoors over the past year and a half may have stronger allergic reactions due to limited exposure to outdoor elements.

Ragweed. Ragweed is the most common fall allergen. Its pollen is very small and highly concentrated. It begins to release in late August, peaks in September, and may last until the first freeze kills the plant. Pollen counts are highest around the plants near dawn, but they can travel hundreds of miles and releases in most other areas between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. 
About 75 percent of people allergic to spring plants also have reactions to ragweed.
October mold. Mold spore counts tend to rise dramatically in autumn, with falling leaves and dying plants. Mold thrives in moist conditions like piles of damp leaves. Counts often jump in early autumn as leaves fall from trees but before the drier humidity conditions of winter set in.  Rainy autumn and winter seasons may lead to very high outdoor mold counts that can last several days after each rainfall. Gardening in mulch or dirt, farming or hiking in the woods can also increase exposure to mold spores this time of year.
Many times, people unknowingly bring these allergens into their homes, making the effects worse for everyone else in the family. Indoor air quality experts can discuss these fall allergens and share tips on how your viewers can keep their homes safe this year.

1. Dust mites, mold and other allergens in a home’s vents can be activated when people turn on the heat the first time in the fall. Before running the heat, get your air ducts cleaned and change the filter. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association suggests cleaning air ducts every 3-5 years. It is recommended to use filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating between 8 and 10 and a thickness of one inch.

2. Keep the outdoors out – When coming inside, it is important to remove shoes and wipe down pets to avoid tracking in allergens. Wear a mask when raking leaves to avoid breathing mold spores, and change clothes after doing yard work to prevent the spread of pollen around the house. Limit your pets’ time outside, and wipe them down to remove pollen when they come indoors.

3. Purify the air – Most air purifiers have HEPA filters that remove up to 99 percent of airborne allergens, including pollen, dust and pet dander and mold spores. A mid-priced model can cost $50-125, for a room-sized system. Placing it in your bedroom, where you spend most of your time, and can result in better sleep as well.

4. Close the windows – Although it may be tempting to open the window to let in some cool “fresh” fall air, you are also inviting allergens into your home. Pollen counts are typically the highest in the mid-morning through late afternoon.

5. Halt the humidity – Growth of mold indoors comes in damp areas such as basements and bathrooms. Use a dehumidifier to keep these areas dry and the humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.  Mold grows best at humidity levels of 60 percent or higher.

— This article was provided by AdvantaClean.