April is here! You know what that means, moms? Sunny warm days, beautiful flowers, and that familiar yellow shine on your cars. That’s right, allergy season is in FULL force! Since most of us are at home with our children and doing more outside activities, it is crucial to understand how to mitigate the effects of those pesky pollens.
‘Tis the SNEEZEon
Did you know that almost 20 million adults and 6 million kids have allergy problems? YOWZAH.
When your body comes into contact with an allergen, it prompts a quick response. Within minutes you experience onset of nasal and ocular symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itching, redness and watering from your eyes. The late response, which happens over hours, is where the congestion builds up and you start coughing. Over days and weeks, this onslaught of symptoms can prompt trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, fatigue and irritability. Kids will especially have a hard time at school or in their activities. You may also see flare-ups of asthma or eczema.
Here is when you might expect to have the most problems in Houston::
January – September: Trees! OAK, Cedar, Ash, Elm, Pecan, Pine, Juniper, Box Elder, Birch
March – July: Grasses! TIMOTHY, Bermuda, Bluegrass, Red Top, Bahia, Sweet Vernal
August – October: Weeds! RAGWEED, Sagebrush, Pigweed, Tumbleweed
Year round: Molds!
You can follow the daily forecast of allergens and air quality via the Houston Health Department.
So the big question is, what can we do to keep ourselves and our families healthy?
How You Can Fight Allergy Season at Home
Other than the obvious avoidance of allergens, here are some general tips:
- Stay inside during allergy season when certain pollen counts are high or it is windy outside. If you do go outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to protect you from the pollen. When you come back inside, change your clothes.
- Keep your home as dust-free as possible. Change your air conditioner filters more often, and use HEPA filters. Get rid of draperies, carpet and fabric furniture.
- If you do have carpet, vacuum once a week and make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter as well. Consider steam cleaning frequently.
- PETS: Keep your pets’ hair brushed and short. If they go outside, wipe off their coats with a wet washcloth when they come inside. Don’t let them sleep in your bedroom.
- Add a HEPA air purifier to clean the air in your bedroom at night. Use allergy protection pillow and mattress covers. Wash all your bedding in HOT water once a week.
- At the end of the day, take a bath or shower and wash your hair before getting into bed. This is definitely a must for kids that have been playing outside; you don’t want that pollen in their beds.
If you have already started to have allergy symptoms, there are some other things you can do before jumping to medications. You can try rinsing out your nasal passages with saline, either using a spray or device like a Netipot. For babies or toddlers, I like using a Nose Frida to suck it back out. This is a very effective strategy for day to day. Hot steam can also clear up a stuffy nose, so use that as an excuse to take a nice, long shower. You can also try natural supplements such as butterbur, quercetin or stinging nettle, but check with your medical provider before doing so. And know that ingesting local honey is an old wives’ tale. The pollens that end up in honey are from flowers, not the troublesome trees, grasses and weeds.
Medications and Immunotherapy
Most medications used to treat allergy problems are over the counter. If you think you may benefit from these be sure to discuss with your medical provider who knows your health history and other medications you are on. Some common medications include oral antihistamines like Claritin or Zyrtec and intranasal steroids like Flonase.
Another great way to treat allergies, especially for children, is immunotherapy under the care of an allergist. First you have to get tested to see what you are allergic to; this may be done either with blood tests or skin pricks. Then you are gradually exposed to increasing levels of allergens to build up tolerance via injections or sublingual drops.
Now go Enjoy Nature!
If you live in Houston long enough, you are bound to experience allergy problems at some point. But there are many changes you can make that can help prevent allergy season from taking over your life. So be proactive, and go enjoy the sunshine and fresh air!