‘Tis the Season for Sneezing

Spring is in the air, but unfortunately, so are a lot of allergens

“Achoo!!” Was that the sound of someone sneezing? Given the time of year, it must be the beginning of the spring allergy season in Texas.

Of course, it always feels like allergy season in Texas, and experts say that one reason is that our winters are relatively mild compared to, let’s say, North Dakota. So, plants often survive a couple of short-lived freezes and pollenate all year round. Still, spring and fall are the worst times of the year for environmental allergies.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), an estimated 54% of Americans suffer from one kind of allergy or another. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness. There are food allergies; some people are allergic to certain medications, and others cannot be around a dog or cat without their eyes tearing, nose running, and skin itching.

These allergies can be avoided. But environmental allergies present a bigger challenge unless you decide to live in a bubble. These allergies can be simply a nuisance or lead to more health issues. If ignored, allergies can cause a sinus infection. A sinus drip can also irritate your throat, causing a cough that can develop into bronchitis and, yes, even pneumonia. And those who are already asthmatic will be more vulnerable to pollen, dust, and mold in the air.

Chronic headaches, ear infections, sore throats, and a stuffy nose are symptoms of allergies, but also a cold, flu, or coronavirus. So, it makes sense to see your doctor and not just attribute your symptoms to allergies. A steroid injection to reduce inflammation and antibiotics are effective in fighting infections caused by environmental allergies. Your doctor may prescribe medication that is stronger than over-the-counter brands.

Tree pollen is the main culprit in much of Texas during April. Everything from ash to pecan, oak, maple, and sycamore trees are sprouting new leaves. By May, allergies to some weeds and grasses begin popping up, with tree pollen still a major issue. Windy days spread the pollen like wildfire.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association estimates that Americans spend $442 a year on over-the-counter medications for allergies. These range from antihistamines to decongestants, steroidal or saline nasal sprays, and inhalers. Nasal irrigation systems, or lavage, are becoming more popular as people look for safer ways to keep their nasal passages clean. These procedures might provide relief as they wash allergens out by rinsing the nasal cavity with saline (saltwater) solutions.

One practice any allergy sufferer might learn from dealing with the coronavirus is to wear a mask outdoors during the peak allergy seasons, especially if you are doing yard work. But if your allergies are debilitating and affecting your quality of life, you can be tested to determine what specifically is causing the problem.

You then can receive regular injections, which place a small sample of the allergen in your body, enabling your immune system to build resistance. Be prepared, however, because it may take months to build resistance.

Environmental allergies may start as a nuisance, but don’t let them become a more serious risk to your health.

When to stock up on tissues in Texas

Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., with many new residents coming from other states and countries. The American Sinus Institute wants the transplants to be aware of when allergies peak in the Lone Star State.

As is true nationally, spring and summer are the primary seasons for environmental allergies.

March: Because of the temperate climate, trees such as cedar, cottonwood, maple, and birch get
a jump start producing pollen.

April: Pecan, elm, and ash trees are among those that pollenate with just about every other tree-type.

May: Not only trees but ragweed and plantain, as well as grasses such as Bermuda, rye, and Kentucky bluegrass, add to allergy misery.

June: Grass and weed pollen are the focal point, while trees are no longer spreading pollen.

July: Just about every weed except ragweed makes life miserable for allergy sufferers, with grasses still producing allergens.

August: Weeds along with elm trees and some grasses, notably Bermuda, are making us sneeze and sniffle.

September: Weeds, among them ragweed, elm trees, and Bermuda grass, highlight the beginning of fall allergy season.

October: At the peak of the fall allergy season, ragweed emerges as the biggest and most prolific problem. The American Sinus Institute estimates that ragweed emits almost one billion pollen grains each season.

November through February: Is virtually allergy-free in Texas, although a mild winter may shorten the grace period considerably.

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