Pollen counts are at record highs: Use these tips to cope with allergies

February 20, 2013

Daily pollen counts in the Fort Worth area are setting records, and for some, that means sniffles, sneezing and itchy eyes.

John Fling, MD, UNTHSC Professor of Pediatrics, who practices Allergy/Immunology for adults and children, said the record pollen levels have been growing for a couple of years.

"We’ve had mild winters for the last two years," he said, "and that has caused plants to pollinate earlier and at higher volumes."

Mountain cedar pollens are creating misery for many at the moment, he said.

"In Central Texas, they call it ‘cedar fever,’" Fling said. "They have much more mountain cedar pollen there than we do here. It’s a significant health risk." In fact, the City of Albuquerque, NM bans the planting of certain cedar trees as part of the "Albuquerque Pollen Control Ordinance" passed in 1994.

How best to cope if you are a pollen allergy sufferer? Fling recommends avoiding the pollens by staying indoors as much as possible. If that’s not realistic, over-the-counter antihistamines can help. There are choices available that aren’t as likely to cause drowsiness as a side effect, and antihistamine eye drops also are available. 

Fling said the pollens also can trigger an inflammatory response, which can be prevented by using a prescription nasal spray containing a steroid. Fling reminds that you need to start using the spray before the allergy season strikes for it to be effective.

"And if all else fails, there is always allergy desensitization," Fling said, which involves injections of small amounts of the allergen to help the body grow accustom to and tolerate it. "The injections work well and provide long-lasting benefits, but they are inconvenient because they have to be administered in a physician’s office in case of a reaction. It takes some months before allergy shots begin to work, and you will need to stay on them for a minimum of three to five years." 

Tips for coping with allergies

  • Try to stay inside with doors and windows shut as much a possible
  • Use over-the-counter antihistamine pills and eye drops
  • Over-the-counter decongestants can help with stuffiness
  • If needed, ask your physician about a steroid nasal spray
  • In the case of severe allergies, consider visiting an allergist for allergy desensitization injections

John Fling is board certified in pediatrics and allergy/immunology. To make an appointment with a UNT Health physician, call 817-735 DOCS (3627).

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