If you spend parts of August, September and October watery-eyed and sneezing, you might want to consider planning your allergy regimen right now before symptoms ever start.

"Waiting until your nose starts to run can lead to worse symptoms that require heavier forms of medication,” said Kim Kovalick, DO, family medicine physician at Geisinger Kingston. “Once your body starts reacting to allergens, it can compromise the efficacy of the medications you take, and maybe even render them useless altogether.”  

When your body mistakenly identifies pollen or other substances as a virus of some kind, it releases a chemical called histamine. Histamine travels through your body seeking the histamine receptors on your cells and then latches on to them. Then the cell becomes inflamed, which leads to the allergy symptoms you experience. 

“Taking medication before the fall allergy season gets in full swing can be the preemptive strike you need to take to ensure an allergy-free autumn,” said Dr. Kovalick. 

The fall season can be especially problematic for those who regularly suffer from allergies because of ragweed, a type of plant. It starts releasing pollen in August that spreads well into the fall, contributing to the roughly 23 million Americans who experience fall allergies. Starting treatment for your fall allergies before pollen counts start rising can decrease your symptoms.   

There are also measures you can take to optimize your home for allergy prevention. For example, cleaning out the air ducts before you start using your heating system can help prevent allergens from blowing all over your home.  

“Things like excrement left behind by dust mites in your home can potentially cause your allergies to flare up,” said Dr. Kovalick. “Outdoor mold can also trigger your allergy symptoms, so wear a mask if you’re going to do outside chores like raking leaves or mowing the lawn.  

There are several other options for treating allergies that don’t involve medication you might want to consider to supplement your usual treatments.  

Studies have shown that while it won’t eradicate your symptoms entirely, hypnosis can provide some additional relief when paired with traditional medications. Next time you have a runny nose or itchy eyes, try imagining yourself in a place that doesn’t trigger your allergies.  

If hypnosis isn’t an option, you may be able to reduce the effects of allergies with the foods you eat. Quercetin, a natural flavonol, is an anti-inflammatory that can block the effects of histamines before they begin. You can find them in foods such as onions, grapes and tomatoes, and by drinking tea.  

Finally, paying attention to the pollen count each day can help you prepare accordingly. And if you go to an allergist, you can get tested to determine which allergens affect you the most. Also, keep in mind that trees pollinate more heavily in the mornings during allergy season, so postpone outdoor activities to the afternoon if you can help it.