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Pollen, allergies signal arrival of spring

The longer days and warmer weather are not only a sign that spring has sprung, but also a signal that allergies are in full bloom. Doctors at Baylor College of Medicine have a few tips on how to get through the season.

"As the weather gets warmer and humid we see increasing levels of tree pollen, followed by grass pollen and to some degree mold spores later in the season," said Dr. Madhu Narra, assistant professor of medicine in the section of allergy, immunology and rheumatology at Baylor College of 

Common symptoms

The most common symptoms include runny (clear watery), itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy throat and drainage. While some allergy symptoms may be similar to a cold, Narra says a cold can include fever, sore throat, yellow or green nasal drainage. Cold symptoms usually go away after a week or so, while allergies can linger for weeks during peak pollen season.

Treatment options

"Usually over-the-counter medications that include loratadine or cetirizine can help. However, if these medications don't relieve the symptoms then it is time to see a doctor for prescription medications," Narra said. "At this point, skin testing will be useful to identify specific allergy triggers. This can not only help with avoidance of the triggers, but can also help to determine if allergy shots are needed. People generally do not realize how much better they can feel if allergies are appropriately treated."

Beating the pollen

  • If you know your trigger, begin taking nasal sprays and/or OTC antihistamines on a daily basis to prevent or control symptoms instead of waiting for symptoms to occur.
  • Track pollen and mold levels on news or on weather websites.
  • To avoid pollen exposure keep windows (including car windows) closed.
  • If possible, stay indoors during mid-day and afternoon hours when pollen counts are highest.
  • Take a shower, wash hair, and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.
  • Leave footwear at the door and clean pets after walking outside to decrease pollen transfer into the house.