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Conditions right for major East Texas allergy season

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
March 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.

The mild winter and recent rains have led to a profusion of blooming blossoms in East Texas.

That's lovely for looking at, but not so wonderful for people with allergies, said local allergist Dr. Todd Holman.

"Because the winter was so mild, a lot of the plants that would normally have gone dormant didn't do so," Holman said. "This is shaping up to be a very aggressive allergy season."

The tree pollen count has been high in recent weeks and will probably continue to cause problems for allergy sufferers until mid-May, he said. After that, however, grass pollen will be at its peak until the end of June. July should provide a brief respite, before ragweed starts to blossom in August.

"This allergy series has really started off with a bang," Holman said. "Our phones have been ringing off the walls, and we're getting a lot of new patients who have never had problems - at least not severe ones - before."

Holman said the first stop for most people suffering from allergies should be their primary care doctor, and mild to moderate allergy symptoms can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications.

"I do want to stress the need for people who have allergies to talk with their family doctor before beginning any treatments, even the use of nonprescription medications," Holman said. "While most of these are fairly effective, they can also have some side effects for people with certain medical conditions, so it's important to make sure a doctor is OK with their use."

People also tend to spend more time outdoors when the weather is nice, which increases their exposure to pollen, he said.

"One of the simplest ways to control allergies is to remain indoors as much as possible, especially on windy days when there is a lot of pollen in the air," Holman said.

Staying inside and running the air conditioner - which can provide air filtration even when it's not needed to reduce the temperature - helps to reduce allergies, he said. Leaving windows open and using fans, while it might be more energy efficient, increases the likelihood of allergy attacks.

It's important for people to remember that even as allergy season begins, it's still possible to catch the flu or colds, and those ailments can aggravate allergies, he said.

"Having another respiratory illness on top of allergies makes everything worse," Holman said. "So we encourage people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands frequently to avoid contracting a cold or the flu."

In allergy sufferers for whom taking nonprescription medication and staying inside aren't enough to alleviate their symptoms, Holman said the next step is a visit to an allergist, who can help find a prescription medication or other treatment to help patients get through allergy season.

"There are medications that can help, so people shouldn't just settle for months on end of sneezing and watery eyes, but they should try some simple solutions first," he said.



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