As the weather warms up, the sniffling and sneezing associated with allergy season begins.
Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system becomes sensitive to something in your surrounding environment caused by an overreaction to an allergen in the air.
Seasonally, plants go through a period of pollination as the outside temperature warms up. As this happens, they release a powdery pollen that spreads in the wind. While this dispersion is meant for plant fertilization, it irritates allergies in many people that can vary from mild to severe.
Different plants pollinate at various points of the spring and summer, releasing different allergens at different times. It is important to know what allergens your body is sensitive to in order to breathe easy and better prepare for the upcoming allergy season.
Typically, allergies experienced in early spring are caused by tree pollen. In North Texas this year, many people have already experienced allergy symptoms caused by mountain cedar. The ashe juniper evergreen trees, commonly found in Central Texas, can go through their pollination as early as January, releasing mountain cedar allergens that are spread farther north by the wind.
Once in the air, mountain cedar can linger for quite some time, usually about a month. With mountain cedar pollinating early this year, it is easy for many to confuse the sinus pressure and congestion caused by this allergen with early symptoms of the flu.
Grass pollination is a leading cause of allergies in many people. Grasses may pollinate throughout many seasons and can cause symptoms throughout the year depending on the weather but typically pollinate later in the spring and early summer. Similar to tree pollination, small grass pollen is released into the air during pollination and travels by wind. While hard to see grass pollen in the air, your body can be irritated by the smallest amounts. The most common types of grass that can cause allergies are Bermuda, Johnson and Kentucky.
With the unpredictably warm weather in North Texas, it is becoming more difficult to determine exactly when to start preparing for allergy season or to know how long allergy season will last. If you historically suffer from seasonal allergies, it is best to visit your physician for testing to determine which allergens trigger your symptoms.
Other ways to combat seasonal allergies include taking over-the-counter antihistamines, washing sheets and clothing regularly after being outdoors, and keeping your windows closed during windy days and at night. Your physician can help create the best treatment plan to alleviate your sneezing or sniffling during high-pollen times and help you enjoy the upcoming spring and summer.
Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain is a general family medicine practitioner at Family Medicine Associates of Texas in Carrollton.