Allergy season Mold doing its worst this fall
Pumpkins decorate doorsteps throughout the region. There’s a whiff of nutmeg in the air. Supermarkets have put the decorative gourds on the display. This can all mean one thing — fall is here, despite a recent run of warm temperatures.
Unfortunately, the season brings fall allergies with it, and some local allergists are already getting an influx of people with sniffles, watery eyes and the like.
“We’re definitely seeing more patients experiencing symptoms,” said Dr. Michael King, an allergist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Connecticut, which has offices in Fairfield and Trumbull.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year — including sensitivities to pets, food, and things in the environment. It’s the last one that’s the main culprit of seasonal allergies — reactions to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds, or to airborne mold spores. Seasonal allergies occur in spring, summer and early fall.
Allergic reactions are the body’s immune system treating a relatively benign substance, such as pollen, as a threat and producing antibodies to attack it. These antibodies release chemicals that cause those hated allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
Fall allergy season typically starts in September, and King said the main culprits this season are ragweed and mold spores. The recent run of rainy weather has produced mixed results for local allergy sufferers, experts said.
“Pollen levels haven’t been that bad, because the rain washes a lot of the pollen away,” said Dr. Paul S. Lindner, director of allergy and immunology at Stamford Hospital. “But it’s not only been humid, but very rainy, so mold levels have been very high.”
“A lot of people’s homes were flooded” in the recent rains, he said. “That can definitely increase mold.”
Geographically, state residents are in a tough spot for fall allergies. Recently, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released its 2018 Fall Allergy Capitals report, which ranked the 100 largest cities in the continental U.S. on how miserable they are for those with allergies. Cities are ranked on their pollen totals, their medicine utilization per patient and the number of board-certified allergists per patient.
While no Connecticut burg made the top 10, all three of the state’s major metro areas — Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford — were all in the top half of the rankings. The New Haven metro area did the worst, ranking as the 20th worst city for allergy sufferers, and also scored as the fifth worst spot for allergies in the Northeast. Hartford was rated the 23rd worst metro area for allergies nationwide and Bridgeport was 41st.
All three were also rated as having pollen totals that were “worse than average,” and all three areas had moved up the list from fall of 2016, when New Haven was the 40th most allergy-unfriendly metro area, Hartford was 47th and Bridgeport was 64th.
For those who suffer from allergies, King and Lindner both recommended staying on top of the symptoms, and steering clear of the substances that exacerbate them.
“You want to try and avoid those elements,” Lindner said. “Look around the house. There might be mold growing there, and you want to get rid of it.”