Imagine, yellow-green powder all over your car, covering the sidewalks and doors and running into the gutters along the street. If you live in Katy, Texas, you know just what I’m talking about. It’s springtime! All that green powder is pollen. Mostly from the Oak and Pine trees that are so abundant in our area. Spring brings with it not only the season of greenery and bright colorful flowers but the season of itching and sneezing. In the United States, approximately one hundred million individuals are affected by allergies and the state of Texas is no different. In many states, allergy season is confined to the springtime and the fall when pollen-producing plants release pollen, causing eye redness and itching, sinus irritation and nasal blockage. However, this is not the case for our part of Texas. Due to the moderate climatic conditions, individuals may experience allergies caused by pollen from weeds, grass, and trees throughout the year in Texas. In addition we have an ideal climate for dust mites to affect us all year long. Even so, Texas experiences variations in allergies according to the season.
SPRING ALLERGY IN TEXAS
Allergies occurring in spring in Texas can get worse similar to any part of the U.S. In Texas, the period between March and May has high pollen counts and it is typically the peak season for tree pollen allergies. This unfortunate timing follows the “mountain cedar season” of winter, causing additional discomfort for individuals who suffer from allergies. Notoriously famous because of its pollen, Mountain cedar is abundantly found in Houston and Austin, Texas, and covers several million acres. The significant quantity and size of the grains make the pollen of Mountain cedar particularly problematic as these cause considerable discomfort for individuals who suffer from allergies, commonly referred to as “cedar fever”. Other allergen-causing allergies in spring are pollen from the oak tree. After this, elm, cottonwood, pecan, and ash also produce allergens but to a lesser extent.
WHAT TO USE FOR SPRING ALLERGY IN TEXAS?
The spring allergy in Texas causes runny noses, sneezing, coughing, itchy and watery eyes, scratching throats, and breathing problems. Since allergies cannot be cured completely, one can treat the symptoms arising from spring allergies with the help of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Usually, decongestants, antihistamines, corticosteroids, and a combination of medicines are used to treat and ease annoying symptoms of allergies. Cetirizine, fexofenadine, levocetirizine, and loratadine are OTC antihistamines that can be taken by mouth. Ketotifen and a combination of pheniramine and naphazoline can be used as eye drops to get some comfort from itchy and red eyes. Along with antihistamines, OTC decongestants can be taken to get relief from congestion. OTC decongestants include tablets or syrup of pseudoephedrine and nasal sprays of oxymetazoline and phenylephrine.
The strongest allergy medications available are steroid nasal sprays and antihistamine nasal sprays. Steroid nasal sprays such as fluticasone, triamcinolone, mometasone and budesonide are mostly OTC and are safe for short term use prior to seeing a doctor. Azelastine, which is OTC, and olopatadine, which is prescription, are antihistamine sprays and are both good for short term use. Both steroid and antihistamine sprays may be good for long term use after a patient has been evaluated by a doctor. Combining antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays together works even better than using them separately. There are some prescription nasal sprays available that combine these together into one bottle, but a similar effect will happen if both sprays are used every day.
AFRIN IS OKAY, BUT BE CAREFUL
When allergies are bad and breathing through the nose is difficult, a quick fix is desirable. There are a few over the counter nasal sprays that work great for this, but there are some serious drawbacks to them. Oxymetazoline and phenylephrine based nasal sprays such as Afrin work fast and very well to allow for breathing through the nose. They can last for up to 12 hours and can make us feel better almost immediately.
Unfortunately, the nose quickly become accustomed to them and after around 2-3 days, begin to develop rebound congestion, or congestion that is worse after the spray wears off than it was before taking the spray. This is why these medications direct to use them for only 3 days. If rebound congestion occurs when using these nasal sprays, there is no need to worry. Rebound congestion will fade away 2-3 days after stopping the nasal spray. Long term use of oxymetazoline or phenylephrine sprays can cause significant problems, and should be avoided.
TESTING OF SPRING ALLERGY
An allergy test is performed to determine whether the immune system of an individual reacts to specific substances known as allergens. The allergy test is either performed through skin or blood for the identification of several allergens. Skin allergy test is divided into two types and is performed if the previous skin test is not conclusive. The first test is the skin prick test. During a prick test, a liquid containing a potential allergen is applied to a small section of your skin using a specialized tool that punctures the skin’s superficial surface lightly. Your doctor will monitor the reaction of your skin to the foreign substance closely. If the area around the test site exhibits localized redness, swelling, elevation, or itchiness, it indicates an allergy to that particular allergen. In cases where the prick test is not conclusive, an intradermal skin test will be carried out. This test involves injecting a small quantity of the potential allergen into the second layer of skin, the dermis. Once again, the response of your skin to the injected allergens will be noted.
In circumstances where a skin test is deemed unsafe due to the risk of severe allergic reaction or is otherwise not feasible, a blood test called ImmunoCAP or RAST may be utilized. This test involves analyzing a blood sample in a laboratory to detect the manifestation of IgE antibodies, that combat specific allergens. ImmunoCAP or RAST are known for their high success rate in identifying IgE antibodies linked to major allergens.
IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR SPRING ALLERGY
Immunotherapy for allergy is known by several names such as subcutaneous immunotherapy, allergen immunotherapy, SCIT or more commonly, allergy shots. It is a string of treatments designed to offer long-term respite from severe allergies. Allergy shots are comprised of a small quantity of single or multiple allergens that lead to allergic reactions. These shots are carefully formulated to include enough allergens to activate your immune system, while simultaneously preventing a severe allergic reaction.
An alternative to allergy shots especially for individuals with a needle fear is allergy drops or sublingual immunotherapy. Instead of injecting the allergens, they are given by placing them under the tongue, hence known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT. Allergy shots and drops both are beneficial for seasonal allergies, however, only four types of allergens have been approved so far by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be treated with allergy tablets. It is possible to treat other allergies than these four with drops, but because the FDA has not approved these treatments to date, they will likely not be covered by insurance. Immunotherapy for allergies is carried out over a period of three to five years regardless of whether it is shots or drops.
ALLERGY TESTING AND IMMUNOTHERAPY IN TEXAS
People residing in Katy, Texas suffer from allergies year-round due to the moderate climate of the region. If you are looking to take preventive measures this spring to protect yourself and your loved one from seasonal allergies, Parkway ENT and Allergy in Katy offers allergy testing and immunotherapy solutions under one roof. The trained staff at Parkway ENT and Allergy will help you to identify the potential allergen making you feel sick and propose the best suitable immunotherapy treatments or medication regimens. If you are looking for a reliable facility to get your allergy testing done in Katy, don’t hesitate to contact Parkway ENT and Allergy Center.