NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Seasonal changes often bring seasonal allergies, and many Middle Tennesseans are dealing with allergy symptoms as we head into the fall season.
Dr. Basil Kahwash, an Assistant Professor of Medicine for the Division of Allergy Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at VUMC, said ragweed is the main culprit for many people’s allergy symptoms this time of year.
“It’s a very common allergy, one of the things that I often have the greatest level of suspicion for when I’m testing somebody for allergies,” said Dr. Kahwash.
He added ragweed typically peaks in early September in Middle Tennessee.
“It starts to really pollinate in a major way around mid-August. So it’s been ragweed season has been underway for some time right now. And then it’ll dissipate in over the next few weeks down to a slightly lower level.”
According to Dr. Kahwash, if you are allergic to one type of ragweed, you may be allergic to all of them.
“There are about 17 species of ragweed, and they tend to cross-react with each other. So if you’re allergic to one, you might be allergic to just about all of them,” he said.
Ragweed isn’t the only fall allergen. As soon as the leaves start to fall, another culprit for fall allergies can take over.
“Mold is another big one, and it tends to be more of a late fall issue because people raking their leaves, the dry leaves, and they accumulate a lot of moisture, either from rain or something else. And that can be a prime environment for mold to start growing,” said Dr. Kahwash.
Viruses circulating during the fall months can also be misidentified as allergies, according to Dr. Kahwash.
“Sometimes it can be really challenging to tell the difference between a viral infection and just allergy symptoms. The thing that I tell patients the most is the number one distinguisher when it comes to symptoms is itching. If you are itchy, if your nose is itchy, your eyes are itchy, or your throat is itchy, maybe that’s a sign that you might be dealing with an allergy. On the other hand, if you are having any sort of fever symptoms, probably not allergic, much more likely to be an infection of some kind.”
Studies have also shown that warmer temperatures can lead to longer allergy seasons.
“That’s a phenomenon that people have been studying a lot in recent years. And we’ve been noticing that allergy seasons have tended to get progressively longer over time because we think it’s related to changes within the climate, and specifically warming of the atmosphere that promotes earlier. Expansion of pollen, when it comes to things are like ragweed, and therefore a longer lasting ragweed allergy season,” he explained.