Whether you call it allergies, hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, this condition that causes watery eyes, runny stuffy nose, itchy throat and mouth, and sneezing can make you miserable. These symptoms can occur any time of year but are usually worst in Spring, Summer, or Fall as dust and mold or pollen from trees, grasses, and ragweed are often the cause for many allergy symptoms. Weather, too, can play a part and is not always predictable. Gentle rains can clear the air but heavy rains can break pollen particles into smaller pieces which are more easily inhaled deeper into the respiratory system. Dry, windy days are likely to stir up more allergens. In warm areas, molds can persist all year and various kinds will release spores in various types of weather.
These tiny allergen particles float in the air and when breathed in, often irritate the mucous membranes of the throat and nasal passages. The medical term for this is rhinitis, ‘rhin’ meaning nose and ‘itis’ meaning inflammation. Some sufferers find relief from symptoms with over-the-counter medications such as saline nasal sprays, decongestants, and antihistamines. Some medications can cause drowsiness so it’s important to carefully read labels and follow instructions. WebMD recommends starting allergy medications weeks before your allergy season.
Severe allergy cases can require professional treatment which may include corticosteroids, leukotriene inhibitors, or allergy injections. Many Houston allergists and immunologists are specially trained in treating this type of illness.
Of course the best treatment is prevention by reducing exposure to allergens. The number of pollen sources coupled with environmental conditions influence pollen counts. Sometimes one source can influence areas miles away. New research presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) conference recently suggests that pollen counts are going to get a lot worse in the next 30 years. Dr. Leonard Bielory showed predictions that pollen counts will more than double by 2040.
To keep tabs on pollen counts in Houston, visit the city’s Daily Pollen and Mold Spore Report. Some people who can identify their allergy triggers take the drastic measures of moving away from them, however that may not be an option for most. Try simpler ways of decreasing allergen exposure and reducing those miserable symptoms.
Air conditioners and air purifiers can filter out many allergens. Decreasing allergen exposure may be accomplished by staying in air conditioning when pollen levels are normally higher, usually early morning hours and dusk or whenever your local pollen count indicates.
Wear an allergy mask when working or exercising outdoors. The down side is that they can be hot and are not exactly a fashion statement but they can make life more comfortable by filtering out particles of pollen, dust, and mold.
Allergens can attach to anything outdoors and be transported inside to get deposited in carpet, drapes, and furniture. Bathe pets as often as your veterinarian allows or wipe them down with a damp cloth often, avoid line-dried laundry, and always shower and change immediately after being outdoors to wash away pollen from the body and clothing.