Is November the Worst Month for Allergies? WeatherWell Explains

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Fall is a cozy time of year. It brings sweater weather, pumpkin pies, and gorgeous fall colors. Plus, with spring and summer in the rearview mirror, you may think you have a brief respite from allergies.

But did you know fall is also bad for allergies?

Mold and pollen from weeds and grasses become rampant between September and November. It triggers your immune system and may lead to a streaming nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Some people find fall worse for allergies than spring.

In this article, you'll learn the difference between spring and fall allergies and why November may be the worst month for allergies. We'll also explain how to spot the common symptoms of fall allergies, how to get a diagnosis, and what to do when November allergies flare up.

These tips from WeatherWell will get you through November and help you prepare to conquer fall allergies 2022.

What causes allergies in November?

During the fall months, allergic rhinitis flares up for many people. Fall allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to harmless substances known as allergens — like pollen and mold.

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Allergens enter the airways and irritate the mucous membranes, causing immune cells to release inflammatory chemicals like histamine, leukotrienes, and interleukins. These compounds trigger hay fever in an attempt to flush allergens from your body.

However, if you struggle with allergies in November, triggers differ from spring or summer allergy triggers.

November allergy triggers

Spring flowers aren't to blame for increasing pollen counts in fall — but weeds are.

August to November is ragweed season, which is a common seasonal allergy trigger. As the air temperature drops and daylight hours shorten, ragweed starts to release pollen — a potent allergen. The powder-like pollen granules spread through the air, especially in fall weather.

More rain and wind can break up pollen particles, blow them around, and make them easier to inhale.

The ragweed pollen count hits its peak in September and October. However, with climate change, experts believe the pollen season now lasts longer. Interestingly, studies have also found pollen concentrations have increased in response to higher carbon dioxide levels.

Ragweed isn't the only cause of allergies in November. Other common triggers that cause November allergies to resurface include:

  • Grasses and weeds: Goldenrod, sagebrush, mugwort, cocklebur, tumbleweed, nettles, and Lamb's-quarters pollinate in fall.
  • Mold: The mold count rises dramatically in the fall. Damp piles of leaves and other decaying plants that accumulate during fall create an ideal environment for fungi to thrive. When you're out raking leaves, mold spores spread and get inhaled, triggering allergies in susceptible people. Research also shows spore counts are highest in the afternoons and early evenings.
Wet fall leaves as a trigger for November allergies

Is November the worst month for allergies?

If you're one of the estimated 300 million people around the world who struggle with hay fever, you may find November is the worst month for allergies. However, it depends on what you're allergic to and how your immune system reacts to allergens.

For some people, spring and summer are the worst allergy seasons. But for others, ragweed and mold allergies make November — and the fall months in general — a terrible time for allergy symptoms.

Symptoms of allergies in November

The symptoms of seasonal allergies are the same, no matter whether you suffer more during spring or fall. Symptoms primarily affect the respiratory system, although some people also get itchy skin and rashes.

The main symptoms of fall allergies include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Headaches
  • Itchy ears
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Skin rashes and hives
  • Scratchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness and wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Dark under-eye circles

Allergies get downplayed, but symptoms can be severe. They may stop you from sleeping, creating fatigue and impacting your performance during the day. Research shows people with ragweed allergies have more fatigue, lower motivation, and greater feelings of sadness.

In addition, allergy symptoms can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma.

How to diagnose November allergies

It can be tricky to identify allergies in the fall. Symptoms can overlap with cold and flu infections, which also ramp up at this time of year.

So, how do you know if you have allergies and not just a cold or flu?

Here are some differences between fall allergies and infections:

  • Fall allergies happen at the same time each year and last weeks or months.
  • Colds and flu typically last a week or two.
  • Allergies don't typically come with a fever.
  • Colds and flu often cause widespread body aches, a fever, and severe fatigue.

If you're not sure whether you have fall allergies, your doctor can help you get to the root of your symptoms.

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In addition to examining you and discussing your health history and symptoms, a doctor can diagnose fall allergies with the help of a skin-prick test. This involves scratching some of the diluted allergen into your skin and waiting for a skin reaction. They may also use a blood test to see which allergens your blood produces an immune response to.

Once you know if you have allergies — and what's causing them — you have the power to take precautions before November rolls around!

November allergies: relief and precautions

Whether you currently have fall allergies or want to take precautions for November 2022, we've got some tips to help you.

1. Track the pollen count

Check the daily pollen count in your area with our WeatherWell app. Awareness of the pollen count on any given day can help you avoid a flare-up.

On days when the pollen count is high, use these precautions:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and keep your windows and doors closed.
  • Keep the windows closed when driving.
  • Wear a hat when going outside.
  • Take your jacket and shoes off when you get home to avoid walking pollen and other allergens through your house. Wash your hair, if you can, after being outside.
  • Use a dryer instead of hanging your laundry outside.

2. Minimize mold exposure

Damp weather and piles of leaves create the perfect environment for mold levels to increase during fall. Unfortunately, many people are sensitive to mold spores, which get stirred up in the air on windy November days.

You can limit your mold exposure by implementing these strategies:

  • Vacuum your carpets frequently.
  • Clean out the air conditioner filters and air vents in your home before fall.
  • Clean your yard regularly to remove piles of decaying leaves and plant matter — but do this while wearing a protective mask.
  • Clean your gutters to remove dead leaves.
  • Fix indoor leaks and damp areas in your home.
  • Regulate indoor humidity levels with a humidifier — humidity of 35-60% is ideal.

3. Use an air purifier

Investing in an air purifier can reduce fall allergies by improving air quality and filtering pollen and mold in your home. If possible, use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which traps small particles in the air.

However, make sure you change the filters regularly.

4. Support your vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient made when your skin gets exposed to ultraviolet rays from direct sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial for a healthy, regulated immune system.

Unfortunately, as fall approaches, fewer daylight hours and cooler weather make it difficult to boost your vitamin D levels.

Low vitamin D may explain the increase in allergic rhinitis during this time.

Speak to your doctor about taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement. You can also increase your vitamin D levels naturally by getting daily sunlight exposure and eating more fish, eggs, and grass-fed dairy products. However, track pollen counts and only go outdoors when pollen levels are lower to avoid aggravating your allergies.

5. Shower and wash your hair daily

Pollen particles are sticky, allowing them to accumulate on clothing, hair, and shoes — and even on your pet's fur.

In addition to regularly washing your clothes and bedding, you should shower and wash your hair at the end of each day to reduce exposure.

Allergy medication for November allergies

6. Take your medication in advance

Anticipating fall allergy season and taking allergy medication before symptoms set in can make a big difference to your quality of life.

Some of the most common allergy medications include:

  • Oral and nasal antihistamines: This popular medication blocks histamine production and reduces inflammation. It's safe to take, but we suggest asking for non-drowsy antihistamines.
  • Decongestants: Available as a tablet or nasal spray, decongestants help to improve nasal breathing. But make sure to limit their use to 7 or less consecutive days.
  • Nasal corticosteroid spray: This reduces congestion by soothing nasal inflammation.

Most of these medications have over-the-counter options. But always speak to your doctor before starting a new medicine.

7. Speak to an immunologist

If you can't kick fall allergy symptoms despite making lifestyle changes, you can consult an immunologist.

Immunologists offer immunotherapy, which may help those with fall ragweed allergies. Immunotherapy works by gradually exposing your immune system to minuscule amounts of an allergen to encourage immune tolerance. It's a long-term allergy treatment that helps to desensitize your immune system to allergens.

Final thoughts

Constant sneezing, a stuffy nose, fatigue, and itchy eyes can ruin your enjoyment of fall.

Fortunately, by understanding your triggers, you can plan and better prepare yourself for fall allergies 2022 and beyond!

July 21, 2022