Watch for dust, mold allergies in the fall
June 25, 2015
This is part 2 of 2 in an allergy series we started in the June 27, 2015, edition of Tri-State Livestock News. Find part 1 online at http://www.tsln.com or in last week's paper.
Fall allergy triggers are different than those of spring and summer, but symptoms can be just as severe.
Ragweed is the biggest fall allergy trigger. When August nights begin to cool, Ragweed usually starts releasing pollen. The weed's pollen can be in the air into September and October. Some 75 percent of people allergic to spring plants are also allergic to Ragweed.
Even if Ragweed doesn't grow in your area, the pollen can travel for hundreds of miles on wind currents. During Ragweed season, those allergic might consider avoiding foods like bananas, melon and zucchini as those are among the foods that can "cross-react" and further aggravate allergy responses.
“One of the misconceptions people may have about allergies is that (everyday) dusty environments, smoke or heavy odors could stimulate an allergic response.Dr. Chris Cleveland
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Mold is another major fall trigger. Spores grow in basements and bathrooms but are also common in outside spots where moisture lingers. Piles of damp leaves provide an ideal breeding environment for mold in fall.
Dust mites usually become airborne the first few times furnaces come on in fall. Since dust mites are also common in school buildings, kids may exhibit fall allergy symptoms, too.
Grain dusts and molds are a big fall concern. Exposure to grain dust can occur in the combine, unloading, during drying and processing, in bins or areas around bins and while grinding/mixing grains with other feed products.
The University of Wisconsin Extension describes grain dust as "a complex soup that is made up of both organic and inorganic particles. Some of these can be easily inhaled and, depending on their size, can find their way deep into various parts of the respiratory system causing a range of adverse health effects."
Significant health issues can result from grain dust exposure. Serious symptoms can include chest tightness or wheezing, sore/irritated throat, nasal and eye irritation and ongoing sense of nasal congestion. Chronic and/or acute bronchitis may also occur.
Massive exposure to grain dust should be avoided as much as possible to avoid development of health issues such as Farmer's Lung and Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome. Repeated exposure to grain dust can cause the allergic response to intensify each time.
Precautionary measures to reduce grain dust exposure include using appropriate and clean fair filters in combines, avoiding direct dust exposure as much as possible, properly adjusting combines to reduce grain damage (which minimizes the amount of dust generated), and wearing a NIOSH-approved and certified N-95 dust mask. Make sure it fits properly.
Anyone with chronic respiratory health issues should avoid all dust exposure. If, after grain dust exposure, you become ill, consult a health care provider to confirm that no serious health problems have developed. Since smoking tends to intensify responses to dust exposure, not smoking is recommended.
Additional details about grain dust exposure are available at http://fyi.uwex.edu/agsafety/confined-spaces/grain-storage-and-handling/human-health-concerns-from-grain-dusts-and-molds-during-harvest/.
"One of the misconceptions people may have about allergies is that (everyday) dusty environments, smoke or heavy odors could stimulate an allergic response," Cleveland says. "However, in those cases the dust and odors are likely just irritating nasal passages. You can't be allergic to things that aren't made of protein, so dust or smoke may cause sensations of nasal irritation but they're not allergens."
Knowing your allergy triggers is an important step in managing allergic reactions. The only sure way to know is to consult a physician about completing allergy testing. "Every year we talk about having the worst allergy season ever, but in fact that statement is true," Cleveland says. "We're identifying more allergens all the time and as our global temperatures climb, pollen counts from trees, weeds and grasses are increasing, too. Over-the-counter treatment is inexpensive and can be a simple and effective way to treat allergy symptoms. If that doesn't work it's time to see an allergist."