Why do we get seasonal allergies?

Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.

But that “ah” can quickly become “ah-choo” if you’re one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion — all typical fall allergy symptoms — can slow you down and make you miserable.

While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of steps to minimize the misery.

1. Know Your Allergy Triggers

Triggers, or allergens, can vary by region of the country, but two main culprits are to blame for many fall seasonal allergy problems, experts say.

Predicting how bad an allergy season will be is an inexact science, but there are some general links with weather, says Gary Rachelefsky, MD, a staff allergist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. “Usually when there is more rain, there is more pollen,” he says. Outdoor mold can increase, too, with more moisture. So if you live in an area struck by flooding or heavy rains in the spring or summer, you can probably expect a worse-than-usual allergy season.

2. Learn Do-It-Yourself Measures

It may sound obvious, but avoiding the allergens is the No.1 measure suggested by allergy experts. There are many steps you can take to eliminate or minimize your exposure to allergens and improve seasonal allergy symptoms. Among the often-cited measures: