Atlanta may top the list for worst allergy cities in the U.S., but Houston made the top 20 for the second year running, according to WebMD. For Houston area residents that means that winter, spring, summer, and fall can be miserable if you’re one of the region’s allergy sufferers.
Even people who do not typically suffer from seasonal allergies may find a day or two of misery on the horizon when the Houston forecast for allergies is on the rise. According to Fox 26, Houston area residents who had never been treated or experienced symptoms of allergies before were seeking prescription treatments for allergies in 2016. Unfortunately, 2017 (and most likely future years) doesn’t appear to be any more favorable for allergy sufferers.
What Causes Allergies?
Pollen is one of the prime culprits behind the seasonal allergies that are plaguing Houstonites. In Houston, allergy sufferers have plenty of pollens to choose from. Any one of these types of pollens may be the source of your misery – or you could be allergic to several or all of them.
Tree pollens that commonly cause allergic reactions:
Weeds that produce allergy-triggering pollens:
As if these aren’t enough to keep you feeling fairly miserable for quite a while, you also need to throw ryegrass and Timothy grass into the mix as well. The bottom line is that pollen isn’t your friend if you’re an allergy sufferer.
Often you can see the pollen in the air, on your vehicles, and even on sidewalks and roadways. If you have any doubt about what the particles floating around in the air or the yellowish powder over everything are, these symptoms of Houston allergies will often tell the tale for you:
Decreased Ability to Taste or Smell
Sinus Pressure (sometimes causes facial pain)
Swelling Beneath the Eyes (may have a bluish tint in the area too)
As you can see, suffering from allergies in Houston isn’t any fun at all. That is why it is so important to avoid situations that may trigger an allergy attack whenever possible.
Are You Sure It Is Allergies?
Allergies are an unpleasant experience. There is no denying that. They can also seem endless as one season gives way to the next and your allergy symptoms do not seem to diminish – only intensify. This can sometimes be the result of new pollens becoming so prominent (spring trees giving way to summer grass, which gives way to weeds in the fall). It can also be a sign that your ongoing allergies have become a problem of a different sort – chronic sinusitis.
Sinusitis may develop as a result of allergies – or even a cold. It can also come about because of a bacterial infection. The problem is that the symptoms of sinusitis and allergies are very similar with many symptoms overlapping between the two.
However, if you’re experiencing the following symptoms, it might be that you’re not simply suffering from a Houston allergy outbreak, but may have sinusitis instead:
Pain in Your Teeth
Painful Swollen Feelings (particularly around your cheeks, eyes, and forehead)
Cloudy, Thick Mucus
As you can see, the symptoms of sinusitis are more intense and uncomfortable than those associated with allergies – which are bad enough in their own rights.
The key is to treat your allergies and symptoms before sinusitis occurs whenever possible. Not only will this help you avoid some of the more serious Houston allergies health consequences, of prolonged allergies, but will also help you feel better faster.
In case you’re wondering about some of the long-term health consequences of leaving your allergies untreated, there are many you probably want to avoid, such as:
Chronic sleep problems
Inability to concentrate
Mood swings and disorders
Infections and inflammation – including chronic lung infections, asthma, and even eczema
Of course, this list doesn’t even address the social consequences of chronic fatigue, mood swings, feeling sick all the time – much less the toll it will take on your professional career when you are sick and unproductive a large portion of the time.
Diagnosing and Treating Allergies and/or Sinusitis
While all of this may sound dreary, there is light in the allergy forecast. One of the first steps you need to take, if you haven’t been diagnosed with allergies, is to consult your physician or a Houston ear, nose, and throat doctor about an allergy test. This will help to pinpoint your specific allergies so you can learn tactics to avoid setting them off and to treat the specific problem when your allergies have been triggered.
Most doctors will use a skin test to diagnose allergies. Your doctor will also be able to help you determine whether your problem is a simple case of allergies or if it might be something more serious, like sinusitis, that requires antibiotics for treatment.
In the case of mild allergies, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter antihistamines to treat your allergies along with avoidance procedures like staying indoors when possible on hot, dry days when the pollen count is high or wearing a dust mask when you must be outdoors and the pollen count is high. He may also suggest keeping windows and doors shut to guard against pollen coming into your home and avoiding tasks like mowing the lawn or gardening during peak allergy seasons.
In addition to over-the-counter antihistamines, your doctor may suggest using decongestants or medications that combine them both.
In the case of more severe allergies, your Houston ENT doctor or Allergist has a number of allergy treatment services to provide you with. For starters, he or she may prescribe medications for your allergies that you take to prevent allergy attacks rather than to respond to them. In other events, your doctor may prescribe allergy shots that help your body build a more effective immune response to the allergens it is exposed to.
If you have a severe case of sinusitis or a case of blocked sinuses, your ear, nose, and throat doctor may recommend the balloon sinuplasty procedure. This is more commonly prescribed if you have been treated for sinusitis but are not responding to traditional medications to treat the condition.
One of the notable things about balloon sinuplasty is that it is far less invasive than traditional treatments, like endoscopic sinus surgery, and can be performed directly in your doctor’s office. Because it is a less invasive procedure, you have a shorter recovery time to live with and can often return to normal activities within two days of the surgery. It is conducted with local anesthesia and doesn’t require operating rooms or general anesthesia.
Get Help for Allergies in Houston
Houston is wonderful for many things. Unfortunately, it also happens to be a wonderful, green city filled with common allergens throughout much of the year. This can be unwelcome news for allergy sufferers in the area, but, with proper treatment, it shouldn’t be bad enough to keep you down for long.