Tank tops and antihistamines: Warmer temps are causing allergies

Although it is still winter, Houstonians are already struggling with pollen, mold and other allergens. An allergy expert at Baylor College of Medicine provides insight as to why spring allergy sufferers are reaching for their tissues so early in the year.

“This winter has been warmer than typical in many places, and there does seem to be higher concentrations of weed and tree pollen than would be expected during this time of year,” said Dr. Evan Li, assistant professor of professor of medicine in the section of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Baylor.

Houstonians are exposed to allergens year-round, with grasses pollinating in the spring, weeds and trees during the summer and fall and mountain cedar during the winter. Li says recent prolonged warmer temperatures are causing grasses and weeds to pollinate and grow faster and sooner than they usually would. These warmer temperatures also allow Houstonians to spend more time outdoors, in turn exposing them to more pollen.

Unfortunately, just because the allergy season begins sooner doesn’t necessarily mean it will end sooner.

“As long as the weather is warm, there will be allergens, and as long as the weather stays unseasonably warm, regardless of the time of year, there will be allergens in the air,” Li said.

Spring is typically the worst season, Li says, with more Houstonians feeling these impacts compared to the other seasons. Aside from the typical allergy symptoms most people face, continued exposure to allergens can lead to someone developing eczema or even asthma.

Fortunately, there are options for allergy relief. Li recommends a regimen consisting of a nasal allergy spray and over-the-counter antihistamines. If symptoms persist, Li says it is safe to take these twice a day. Li also recommends supplementing your defense against allergies with distilled water saline sinus rinses that come in neti pot, squeeze bottle and even electronic machine options. Masking can also help lessen symptoms, with N95s and respirators providing the most protection and surgical masks providing some protection against larger pollens. The use of ketotifen eyedrops as needed also can supplement these methods.

“If your allergy symptoms are not controlled by the usual over-the-counter medicines, please seek consultation with your local allergist for testing to see if you are a candidate for allergy shots,” Li said.

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