Allergic to autumn: 5 misconceptions about fall hay fever

Spring and its pollen-filled blooms get the bad rap for irritating allergies, but fall can also be a trying time for the 40 million Americans who suffer from allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. If you’ve found yourself reaching for the Kleenex more than usual, check out this list of autumn allergy misconceptions before you chalk those sneezes up to an early season cold.

Misconception: Plants aren’t in bloom in the fall, so there’s nothing to be allergic to.
Ragweed is the most common culprit in fall allergies. It starts spreading up to 1 billion pollen grains per plant in mid-August, and is especially common in the Northeast and Midwest. Another culprit is the mold that grows under piles of fallen leaves. If you do have allergies, at least it’s an excuse to avoid yard work!

Misconception: I live in a city, so I’m safe from seasonal allergies.
Ragweed pollen has been measured 400 miles out to sea and 2 miles in the atmosphere. Plus, there are around 17 different kinds of ragweed. Basically, there’s really no escaping it.

Misconception: Now that the weather is cooler, it’s a great time to open windows and get some fresh air.
Sadly, seasonal allergy sufferers should keep those windows closed, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when pollen counts are highest, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Same goes for driving with the car windows down.

Misconception: I’ve never had seasonal allergies before, so I bet it’s just a cold.
Developing allergies later in life is common. If your runny nose, scratchy throat and itchy eyes have been bothering you for more than two weeks, you probably have allergies.

Misconception: Allergy medicine is too expensive! I guess I’ll just keep sneezing forever.
Several effective allergy treatments like Allegra and Zyrtec are now offered over-the-counter and in cheaper, store-brand form. If those still aren’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments, like allergy shots and nasal sprays.