Allergies abound: If you're allergic to pollen, you already know it's ragweed season

Published on Sunday, 24 September 2017 19:08 - Written by ROY MAYNARD,

It’s not just you. Ragweed pollen counts are sky-high, and allergy suffers know it.

Recent ragweed counts from The University of Texas Health Northeast indicate “high” ratings. In this area, that’s primarily ragweed and goldenrod.

“Allergy sufferers may be having increased symptoms if they are sensitive to weed pollens and molds,” said Jonathan W. Buttram, MD, a board certified allergist and immunologist at UT Health Northeast’s Lindale clinic. “Weeds are most problematic in the fall and molds may wax and wane throughout the year. Fall elm is also pollinating and grasses continue to have some activity during this time of year.”

And the pollen is going to be around for a while, he added.

“Weeds will probably continue to pollinate for at least another month,” Dr. Buttram said. “Weed pollination will then give way to mountain cedar in November through March. There is light at the end of the tunnel if you’re weed-allergic, but it may be dim if you’re also allergic to mountain cedar.”

What’s an allergy sufferer to do? Dr. Buttram recommends what he calls “pollen avoidance measures.”

“Keep windows and doors closed, avoid prolonged outdoor exposures if possible, wear sunglasses to keep pollens out of the eyes, and shower in the evenings to remove pollens from the hair and skin,” he said.

Some nasal sprays can be helpful, as well.

“Nasal steroids are safe and most effective in relieving nasal inflammation, but they need to be used daily to achieve maximum benefit,” he said. “It may take up to two to three weeks to achieve the maximum effect. Nasal saline is also effective, and may be used up to three to four times daily.”

Over-the-counter allergy medications can also help with the symptoms.

“Oral antihistamines relieve itching, sneezing, and runny nose,” Dr. Buttram said. “Long-acting preparations such as Loratadine, Fexofenadine, Cetirizine, and Levoceterizine may provide benefit for 12 to 24 hours with limited potential side effects.”

Another option is the “neti pot” and its high-tech successors. They use a saline solution to rinse out the sinuses.

“Nasal saline irrigation is effective in relieving allergy symptoms to some degree due to its ability to remove offending allergens and mucus generated by allergic inflammation,” Dr. Buttram said. “Nasal saline irrigation can be accomplished with electronic irrigation devices, manual devices - squeeze bottles - and gravity feed devices, like the traditional neti pot. All are effective.

Saline irrigation should be done with normal saline, 0.9 percent, made from pre-made saline packets or specific recipes with non-iodized pickling/canning salt and baking soda and distilled water, he said.

Of course, if these over-the-counter medicines aren’t up to the industrial strength of East Texas pollens, sufferers should see a doctor.

“If avoidance measures and OTC medications are ineffective, see your primary care physician or seek the help of a board certified allergist and immunologist,” Dr. Buttram said.