More pollen more problems, steps to help avoid allergy symptoms

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you've been dealing with a stuffy or runny nose, nasal drainage, sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes, and you don't have a fever, chances are you might have allergies.

Aimee Raley received treatment for allergies in the past, and they went away. But eight months ago, she moved to a different part of Houston.

Since then, "I've been experiencing really bad allergies, bad nasal drainage, coughing at night, which keeps me awake, which makes me exhausted the next day, terrible headaches," explained Raley.

And it's no wonder. President of Texas ENT Specialists Dr. Cary Moorhead said pollen counts are extremely high.

"The warm weather allowed for a long growing season for plants, and then that allowed them to pollinate much earlier, and then over the past week or so, we haven't had any rain to wash the pollen out of the air, so it's continued to climb and accumulate," explained Dr. Moorhead.

Moorhead suggested starting with over-the-counter nasal rinses, antihistamines and nasal sprays to reduce the symptoms of allergies, and if you still feel terrible, it's probably time to see a doctor.

"We would either try them on a medical treatment to see if that would help them, and if they want to know exactly what they are allergic to, we'd do allergy testing," added Dr. Moorhead.

Dr. Moorhead and his Allevia Allergy Center team test for seasonal allergies like pollen and mold.

The doctors also test for perennial allergies like dust mites, pets, or insects.

"We do a prick test first, which basically - although it says prick, it's an instrument we use to put pressure on the skin," said Dr. Moorhead.

"Then, based on the prick testing, we decide if we have to do intradermal testing to determine the severity of the allergy."

After the testing, Raley learned she is allergic to box elder, oak trees, some weeds and molds, dust, dogs, and every common grass in the Houston area!

For someone like Raley, Dr. Moorhead suggested immunotherapy.

"Immunotherapy is treating the patient to desensitize them to what they are allergic to," Dr. Moorhead said.

Weekly allergy shots are the traditional method covered by insurance. But, Dr. Moorhead also recommends another option, allergy drops.

"Allergy drops use the same allergens as the shots do, but instead of giving them as an injection, they are administered by the patient themselves under their tongue," Dr. Moorhead said.

And that is exactly what Raley chose.

"I'm going to start the drops and talk to my husband about artificial grass," joked Raley.

The drops are not covered by insurance yet, and they usually cost around a hundred bucks a month, but Dr. Moorhead said when you factor in the cost of weekly visits for shots, you might find the drops to be more affordable.

Now, if you want to avoid those allergy symptoms altogether, there are a few steps we can take at home.

1. Do a nasal rinse at least once a day, but twice a day is better, especially if you're stuffy. Stuffiness isn't good. You want your nose to have adequate fluid intake to flush out the pollen.

2. If you're outside long period of time, take those dirty pollen-filled clothes off and put them right in the laundry bin. You don't want those clothes sitting on fabric sofas or dropping them on the floor because that will only spread pollen.

3. You wouldn't believe the amount of pollen that collects in the hair and skin. Bathe at night and wash your hair before bed, so that the pollen won't spread to your sheets and affect your sleep. You also want to wash your sheets weekly in hot water, too, to get rid of any allergens.

4. Stuffed animals and carpet are pollen and dust magnets, so limit the amount you have in your home, if possible. If you can't afford new flooring, make sure you vacuum regularly.

5. When you're in the car, keep the air conditioner on re-circulation. This keeps pollen out of the car as much as possible, so you won't be exposed.

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