Memorial Hermann-GoHealth suggests you get an early start on allergy season

By: Memorial Hermann-GoHealth
| Published 03/19/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX – About a quarter of Americans—85 million of us—are bracing for seasonal allergies. And the results can be exhausting and debilitating. Constant sneezing, hacking coughs, watery, itchy eyes and interrupted sleep.

Betsy Koickel, M.D., medical director of Memorial Hermann-GoHealth Urgent Care says early-season spring allergies are often caused by pollen from trees, such as oak, elm, birch, poplar or maple. Summer may also bring new reactions to grasses and other plants.

Dr. Koickel says there are plenty of ways to mitigate your allergies—even before symptoms show up:

1. Fighting symptoms before they start: Allergies are caused when your body mistakes pollen for a threat. A mass of immune cells come to the rescue, causing an inflammatory response. You can keep inflammation at bay by starting some medicines before allergy season. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can be found over the counter or may be prescribed by your healthcare provider. Some medications can take several weeks or a month to reach their full effectiveness, so someone who often suffers from allergies to tree pollen in mid-April might start taking preventive allergy medicine in March

Decongestants can offer some relief, but some decongestant pills can be a bad choice for people with high blood pressure or heart problems. Likewise, decongestant sprays such as oxymetazoline may help for a few days but could make congestion worse with longer use.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the most effective medicines and pretreatment strategies for your specific situation.

2. Managing your exposure outside: Keep an eye on an air quality indicator to check on daily pollen loads in our area. Minimize outdoor time early in the morning and on windy days when pollen counts tend to peak. In the car, keep windows up and air conditioning set to recirculate filtered air, rather than bringing in pollen from the outdoors. If you’re doing yard work, wear a face mask. This is not a good time to dry laundry outdoors, as windblown pollen can settle on your clothes.

3. Controlling the environment inside: At home, keep windows shut and use the air conditioner, making sure filters and vents are clean. Indoor air filters and vacuum cleaners with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can remove pollen particles that sneak inside. Take off shoes at the front door to avoid tracking pollen inside and wipe down your pets’ paws and coats. Consider taking a shower before bed to wash away pollen and avoid contaminating your pillow. And what if pollen has you sneezing? A saline rinse with a nasal irrigation device such as a neti pot can help rinse your nose out.

4. Going further with a formal diagnosis: If allergies are affecting your quality of life, a healthcare provider can advise you on pretreatment strategies and medication, as well as initiate testing to help you pinpoint your allergy triggers. A diagnosis can help patients pursue long-term strategies such as allergy shots or sublingual (under the tongue) allergy tablets, which desensitize the immune system by exposing it to very small amounts of the allergen. Typically, patients receive weekly shots for several months, followed by a maintenance phase of monthly shots that can last for three to five years. About 85% of patients experience relief.

While there is no permanent cure for allergies, a healthcare provider can help you find effective strategies to cut suffering. Memorial Hermann-GoHealth Urgent Care providers are available to help without an appointment.

Comments •
Log In to Comment