If you think spring is the only allergy season, well for allergy sufferers, although the triggers are different, fall can be just as troublesome as spring.
As per the seasonal allergy statistics, it’s been estimated that 10-30% of the world’s population suffers from seasonal allergies and asthma.
Even if you do not deal with severe symptoms, allergies cause vocal cords to be dry, and that induces vocal strain, irritation, breathing fatigue, and even can lead to voice loss.
For public speakers, fitness trainers, school teachers using online video platforms, voice teachers, and singers to be more specific, allergy can be frustrating.
Here’s everything you need to know to get through the season.
What Causes Fall Allergies?
Grass and weed pollen are the main cause of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) such as Ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed, Russian thistle, cocklebur, burning bush, lambs quarters, mugwort.
The pollen is highest during the morning hours, on windy days, and shortly after a rainstorm.
Mold and Mildew
These forms of fungus grow on damp fallen leaves and indoor damp areas in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.
Common hiding spots of these microscopic arthropods are moist and humid places, and air filters of your heaters.
What Are the allergy symptoms?
They vary depending on which part of the body is exposed:
- Eyes: watery, itchy irritated eyes
- Nose: running nose, nasal congestion, sneezing
- Lungs: wheezing, asthma
- Mouth: itching in the back of the throat, coughing
- Skin: dry, itchy skin, skin rash, eczema
- Severe cases: trouble breathing, anaphylaxis
For us singers, we might feel discomfort reading music scores. Sneezing and coughing might interrupt our concentration. Heavy breathing during a song or vocal warm-ups can cause stress on the voice, fatigue, and tension on the vocal cords.
How Are Allergies Diagnosed?
Before going to your allergist/immunologist, I suggest you write a detailed diary of signs, symptoms, and possible triggers to show to your doctor.
The doctor might also recommend one or both of the following tests:
- Skin test: a doctor or nurse will prick your skin and expose you to small amounts of the proteins found in potential allergens. If you’re allergic, you’ll likely develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin.
- Blood test: the amount of IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies in your bloodstream is evidence of sensitivity to possible allergens.
How to Avoid Fall Allergies?
Even with COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, managing fall allergies can be tricky. The following precautions help relieve your symptoms:
- Keep your windows and doors closed, especially on windy or high pollen count days and if you live in a busy loaded neighborhood.
- Before turning on your heat for the first time after summer, clean the air vents and change the filters.
- Cover your bedroom mattress and pillows in dust-proof covers.
- You don’t have to skip on farmers’ markets and morning hikes, but do reconsider your timing as the pollen count is the highest from early morning until 10 am and again at dusk.
- Before entering the house, take off your shoes, change clothes inside the front doorway, and head straight for the shower. (Does it remind you of coronavirus hygiene precautions??!)
- Wear a protective face mask when you clean your house and pets, also when you rake leaves outdoor. Keep compost and yard-waste piles far away from the house.
- Vacuum floors, surfaces, carpets, and furniture regularly with pet-friendly double-layered microfilter bag or HEPA filter installed.
- Wash your bedding sets regularly in hot water.
- Brush or wipe down your pets after walks. Frequently wash and groom, and keep them off furniture and in specific areas of your home. Keep litter boxes and pet bedding away from air vents, and use an air purifier to help clean the air of the pet allergens.
- Avoid hanging your laundry outdoors to dry.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels in your home between 35-45%.
How to Treat Fall Allergies?
OTC (over-the-counter) allergy medicines are available in the form of pills, liquids, or nasal sprays. Take your medication as prescribed: you cannot simply stop whenever you start feeling better.
- Antihistamines to reduce runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing (Benadryl, Zyrtec, Allegra)
- Nasal corticosteroids to reduce symptoms and block allergic reactions (Flonase, Nasonex)
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists to treat asthma (Montelukast)
- Decongestants (Afrin, GoodSense, Mucinex) to decrease nasal swelling
Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots, oral tablets, or drops can be effective for severe allergies. By gradually exposing the immune system to a specific allergen that is causing the reaction, your body builds a sort of tolerance.
Always consult your doctor and avoid taking medicine without prescription and diagnosis. A proper allergy test will help identify the cause of your suffering and determine the right treatment to stop it.
24/7 Without the hassle of the waiting room, connect face to face with a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist through live video.
Just like an in-person visit, your doctor will take your history and symptoms, then will perform an exam.
What is the Allergy Effect on a Singer’s Voice?
Many singers are obliged to take medication as natural remedies fail to heal them. Medicines dry up your sinuses and remove any excess mucus in the throat around the vocal cords.
Proper vocal training and breathing exercises are essential for connecting the breath and the body in both singing and speaking voice.
A healthy lifestyle will improve your singing, give you comfort, and enhance your quality of life:
- Drink plenty of water (room temperature) and avoid eating ice cubes or cold water.
- Drink organic herbal teas.
- Good sleep is important: use a humidifier to clean the air and add an extra pillow to raise your head while you sleep. Remember to stretch the head and neck the moment you wake up for mobility and tension relief.
- Singers with GERD acid reflux know best how to balance their food diet: coffee, chocolate, citrus, spices, processed food, alcohol, and smoking will dry you out. Dairy products increase mucus.
- Watch out for food allergies and intolerances that involve the digestive system.
- Eat 2 hours before warming up and singing.
- Gargle in saltwater.
- Inhale the steam of essential oil drops in boiled water. Cover your head with a towel, keep your eyes closed and breathe through the nose.
- Schedule weekly hours for walking, hiking, exercising, stretching, and meditating.
- Avoid loud environments.
Be aware of your health condition, identify your allergies, and their effect on your vocal cords. Learn to adapt and prepare yourself to lessen the impact of allergies on your physical and mental health.
Don’t forget to moisturize your skin, enjoy the season and keep on singing!