Fall is here, and if you are anything like us, you are probably enjoying pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters and the breathtaking fall colors in parks. It’s that magical time of the year when nature paints a masterpiece with its fiery reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows.
But among all the pumpkin-themed foods & drinks and colorful landscapes, there is one thing that might be hidden in the background ready to jump on you: seasonal allergies.
As much as we love the charm of this season, we know it can also mean sneezing or itchy eyes for those with allergies. Fall has its own set of allergens, whether it's the crisp air, the abundance of fallen leaves, or the hidden pollen in the breeze. And if you live here in Texas you might be familiar with the not so welcome “Cedar Season” or "Cedar Fever".
In this blog post, we will take a look at seasonal allergies, what they are and their symptoms and what can be done to fight them.
What Allergens are?
Allergens are substances that can trigger allergic reactions in individuals who are sensitive or allergic to them. These reactions occur because the immune system of these individuals mistakenly identifies the allergen as a harmful invader, such as a virus or bacteria. To protect the body, the immune system produces antibodies, specifically immunoglobulin E (IgE), in response to the allergen.
When the individual is exposed to the same allergen again, these IgE antibodies recognize it and signal the release of various chemicals, including histamines. Histamines are responsible for the classic allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes. The specific symptoms and severity of an allergic reaction can vary depending on the type of allergen and the individual's sensitivity.
What Allergy Season is?
Allergy season is that time of the year when people with allergies to environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites experience allergic symptoms more often than the rest of the year. The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
Itchy nose, eyes, and throat
Watery, bloodshot eyes
The timing of allergy season varies depending on geographical location and the type of allergen. If we talk specifically about the state of Texas it experiences distinct allergy seasons throughout the year.
In spring (March - May), tree pollen counts surge, causing particular concern for individuals with tree pollen allergies. Additionally, some grass and weed pollens emerge during spring, although their symptoms tend to be less severe.
With the onset of summer (June - mid-September), grass pollen becomes the predominant source of allergies. The duration of high grass pollen levels varies by region within Texas. Weeds also become more active during the summer season, but a decline in tree pollen counts leads to an overall improvement in pollen counts.
In Fall (late September - mid-November), pollen counts significantly decrease. While weed pollen persists, the activity of trees and grasses subsides. This time of the year is dominated by Ragweed pollen.
During the winter months (mid-December - mid-February), 'Cedar Season' starts here in Texas. Cedar trees release an extensive quantity of pollen grains, estimated at around a billion, often dispersing over vast distances, especially on windy days.
Allergy season can have a significant impact on the lives of Austin residents. Allergic symptoms can interfere with daily activities, such as work, school, and leisure. They can also lead to sleep problems, fatigue, and decreased quality of life. In some cases, allergies can also lead to serious health problems, such as asthma attacks and anaphylaxis.
What are the symptoms and how can they impact daily life?
Seasonal allergies can be much more than just a minor problem. Early on this blog post we listed
some of the symptoms. Here you have a more detailed list:
Itchy, watery or red eyes
Circles under eyes
Itchy mouth, nose or throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Drainage from the nose down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
Temporary loss of smell
Tiredness (due to difficulty sleeping from other symptoms)
Scratchy or sore throat
Snoring (due to congestion)
All of these symptoms can affect our life, from work and school to our night’s sleep. Constant sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion can make simple pleasures, like outdoor activities or enjoying a meal, less enjoyable. The physical and emotional burden of chronic allergy symptoms can lead to increased stress and frustration, which can affect relationships and mental health.
How to diagnose seasonal allergies?
Diagnosing these allergies is a critical step in managing our symptoms effectively. Consulting with your doctor is essential. As we discussed in our previous blog post, DPC allows our patients easy access to a healthcare provider, creating a strong and high quality doctor-patient relationship.
The 1st step in diagnosing seasonal allergies is recognizing the pattern of the symptoms. After consulting with your doctor, they may recommend allergy testing. There are 2 primary types of allergy test:
Blood tests: These tests measure the levels of specific antibodies, like IgE, in your blood. At METSI Care we offer this particular test to our patients, helping them know the allergens that are causing their symptoms.
Skin prick test: This test involves applying the allergen extract to the skin via a tiny prick or scratch. If the person is allergic to the substance, it will develop a small, itchy bump at the site within about 15-25 min. This test is usually available at the Allergy Specialist office.
Keeping a detailed diary of your symptoms can be an important part too. Record when they occur, their severity and any potential triggers or environmental factors. Once we recognize symptoms and after we perform tests, we can tailor a personalized plan to manage this condition.
How to reduce Exposure to Allergens?
To minimize exposure to allergy triggers, particularly during this challenging allergy season, it’s important to consider implementing the following strategies:
Use Indoor Air Filters: Invest in indoor air filters for your home, and replace them periodically (every 3 months). These filters can help capture allergens, including pollen, dust mites, and mold spores, providing cleaner air and reducing the risk of allergy symptoms. For those with severe allergies, it is recommended using a HEPA Filter and replace every one to three months
Medical Treatments: When it comes to medical treatments for allergies, there are several options to consider, including:
Allergy Drops: At METSI Care we offer Customized Sublingual Steroid Drops that are an effective solution for managing allergies. These drops work by desensitizing your immune system to specific allergens over time, reducing your body's overreactive response.
Allergy Shots: For acute flare ups, we also offer steroid shots for allergies. Working the same way as the drops, their effect can last as long as the allergy season last.
Antihistamine Medications: Antihistamines are readily available over the counter and can help relieve common allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, congestion, and watery eyes. Examples include cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine. Always consult your doctor for guidance on the best antihistamine for your specific needs.
Personal Care Recommendations During Allergy Season: In addition to using indoor air filters and considering medical treatments, taking personal care precautions can make a significant difference in managing allergy symptoms during the challenging allergy season. Here are some recommendations:
Stay Informed: Keep an eye on local pollen forecasts and current pollen levels through TV, radio, newspapers, or online sources. This will help you plan your outdoor activities during times of lower pollen exposure.
Limit Outdoor Activity: Avoid outdoor activities in the early morning when pollen counts tend to be at their highest. If you need to venture outdoors during peak pollen times, consider wearing a face mask to reduce direct exposure.
Shower After Being Outdoors: After spending time outside, remove the clothes you've worn and take a shower to wash away any pollen that might have attached to your skin and hair. This practice can help reduce the risk of bringing allergens indoors.
By combining these personal care recommendations with the use of indoor air filters and, when necessary, seeking medical treatments like allergy shots and antihistamines, we can better manage our allergies.
Other Helpfull Approaches
Many individuals seek natural remedies or recipes to reduce allergy symptoms. It’s essential to approach them with caution and always under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Let’s take a look on some of these options:
Honey: Some people believe that consuming local honey can help desensitize the immune system to allergens. But scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is quite low.
Probiotics: As we discussed in our previous blog post, studies suggest that probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria enhancing our immune response. This can reduce allergy symptoms.
Nasal Irrigation: Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution can help flush out allergens and ease congestion. This is a safe and widely recommended method, often used alongside other treatments.
Wear mask outdoors: using a mask when outdoors around your triggers is like having your own personal filter wherever you go. This can cut down your allergy symptoms.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, can help reduce overall inflammation in the body, which might mitigate allergy symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseeds and walnuts, may have anti-allergenic properties and could potentially help alleviate allergic reactions.
Avoiding Trigger Foods: Some individuals experience cross-reactivity between certain foods and allergens. For example, if you're allergic to birch pollen, you might also react to certain fruits like apples or cherries. Identifying and avoiding these trigger foods can be helpful.
Processed Foods: Processed and high-sugar foods can contribute to inflammation and worsen allergy symptoms. Reducing or eliminating processed foods from your diet can be beneficial.
It's important to remember that these options may offer a relief, they are not substitutes for medical treatments.
Allergy season in Austin, Texas, can be quite challenging, with varying allergen triggers throughout the year.
At METSI Care we offer allergy shots, a highly effective medical treatment for managing allergies. Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, can desensitize your immune system to specific allergens, reducing your body's overreactive response.
It is important to be prepared for Allergy Season. Allergic symptoms can disrupt daily life, lead to sleep problems and fatigue, and even cause other severe health issues. By taking proactive measures and following personal care recommendations, you can enjoy a more comfortable and symptom-free allergy season.