Pollen giving Houstonians fits

HOUSTON It's just about everywhere - on cars, in the air, on the ground and especially in your nose. The problem could be worse this year because of our unseasonably cold weather which has created a perfect storm of circumstances for trees, bushes and flowers.

"It could be that they're all coming out at the same time," said Dr. Bernard Ng, DeBakey V.A. Medical Center Allergist.

Oak trees, for instance, produce 3,000 to 6,000 pollen particles per cubic meter. It only takes 10 particles to trigger an allergic reaction. Experts say the best strategy is to start taking your allergy medicines early before you get any symptoms.

"So if they start it before it starts, a lot of times they can actually even prevent the very symptoms themselves," said Dr. Ng.

He says it's also a good idea to have some allergy medicines on hand. Antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec.

"It's good to have the antihistamines because they work fast," Dr. Ng said.

If your allergies are really bad, try steroid nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex, which are prescriptions. They can reduce inflammation and swelling.

"They don't sneeze as much. They don't itch as much," said Dr. Ng.

The good news is tree pollen season should end in a few weeks. The bad news is grass and weed allergies will start flaring up in the summer.

If you don't want to take medicine, Dr. Ng says wash your hair and change clothes when you go home. Keep outside clothes separate because pollen actually sticks to clothes and to your hair. And you can use saline sprays to clean the pollen out of your nose.

Our doctors say honey can work too, but it has to be local honey where bees gather nectar from local flowers. When you eat the honey, you're exposed to the local pollens and the theory is with low levels of exposure, you build up an immunity. It's similar to the effect of taking allergy shots.

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