Still recovering from springtime allergies? This year, spring allergy season in Houston was more active than usual. Since the ice storm we had in February 2021 delayed the start of spring allergies, you might have expected a less severe season.
However, the freezing temperatures actually acted like insulation for plants and trees. As a result, pollen was simply delayed.
While we’re still ahead of autumn, it’s best to know how you can prepare for Houston’s 2021 fall allergy season. The following strategies can be effective, and if you’re looking for extra support, a professional allergist will help you stay well – even when allergy season is in full swing.
Know What Pollen Is in the Air
The best way to avoid allergy symptoms is to practice awareness. If you know what kind of pollen aggravates your allergies, monitor the spores in the air to see when you might be at risk.
Every day, the Houston Health Department updates the spore levels of grass, trees, and mold. The Department also keeps an archive of previous years’ pollen counts so you can see what months are more prone to certain pollen.
Once you identify the allergens that cause you to have reactions, it’s easier to track what days and months you might experience symptoms.
[Related: The Three Most Common Fall Allergies]
Mold spores are typically higher during hot, humid periods near the end of summer. Be especially careful during the middle of September to October for mold spores in Houston.
In 2020, tree pollen was more intense during September and October. While tree pollen fell in October, the measurement was still rated as “heavy” until November.
Grass pollen is active for longer periods of time in the Houston area. Houston’s Health Department reported higher levels of grass pollen in October than September or November.
Four Ways to Keep Your Allergies in Check
Ready to tackle allergy season? Follow these tips.
1. Plan When to Be Outside
Limit your time outside when spore levels are higher. Typically, your allergies are most susceptible to reactions from early in the morning until late afternoon.
Pollen counts rise beginning at dawn and fall as the day progresses. However, on some days when spore and pollen counts are higher than normal, your allergies may react even when levels are low. It’s best to always monitor your symptoms and pay attention to how you feel.
2. Avoid Yard Work
If possible, avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time gardening or building the yard of your dreams. If you can’t help yourself, try to wear a face mask to help limit your exposure to spores.
3. Wash Your Clothes and Bedding
Frequent loads of laundry can help allergies.
If you’re outside for a while, wash your clothes when you come home. Washing your bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets is a good way to avoid a reaction from dust mites.
Using warm water will eliminate dust mites from your bedding. These microscopic creatures love to congregate on rugs and floor mats, so make sure you’re washing them, too.
4. Clean the House Often
Keeping your house clean is another good way of helping your allergies indoors.
Dust mites are active during the warm and humid months of the year. Cleaning often can reduce the number of mites in your home and effectively “allergy-proof” your space. Pay extra attention to floorboards and underneath furniture.
[Related: When Do You Need To Pay Them A Visit?]
Anything else I can do to reduce exposure to mold spores?
Molds are also known as fungus. They are microscopic plant-like organisms that form colonies and grow on various substances. Similar to plants, molds give off spores that cause allergies. If you are allergic to one mold, you have an 85% chance of being allergic to other molds.
Seasonal Cycles of Mold Spores
As mentioned above, mold allergy is quite common and it’s associated with year-round allergies and occurs even though the pollen count is low. Mold spores peak in the warm summer months. Molds grow in dark and damp (humidity >60%) environments.
Mold Spores Can Be Found Indoors & Outdoors
The key to reduce indoor mold is to eliminate dampness and darkness. Molds are found in bathrooms, under sinks, or on houseplants. Outside they flourish on dead plants and in shaded areas. Remember there is more mold outside than inside, so don’t go too crazy getting rid of mold in your home. This can be particularly expensive when cleaning out ducts.
Tips for Avoiding Allergy Triggers for Mold
- Avoid areas that are breeding grounds for molds such as garages, barns, basements, crawl spaces, woodpiles, and fallen leaves.
- Keeping basements dry and ventilated to reduce moisture and darkness.
- Clothes dryers should be vented to the outside.
- Keep the humidity in your house below 50%. Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Also consider installing a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp, enclosed areas.
- Examine your refrigerator, air-conditioning vents, and humidifier for mold growth. Clean with mold and mildew remover.
- Use an exhaust fan over the stove and in the bathroom to remove extra humidity.
- Clean the refrigerator and empty the water pan regularly and discard spoiling food promptly.
- Use machine-washable bath mats in the bathroom.
- After leaving the shower, be sure to stretch out the curtain to deter mildew.
- Wear a mask if you transplant houseplants or dig around in the soil. Also, immediately empty the water that seeps into the saucers under plants when they’re watered.
- Even dried flowers, including holiday wreaths, often contain molds.
- Store firewood outdoors.
- Open curtains to allow drying sunlight to shine in.
- Keep the yard free of fallen leaves.
- Avoid using pillows and mattresses that are contain foam rubber (choose “hypoallergenic” items)
- Consider using a HEPA filter, especially if you also use a humidifier, to pick up any mold spores that enter the air.
- Paint mildewed areas with mold-resistant paint.
- Remove carpeting, wallboard and other construction materials that have suffered water damage.
- Remove indoor plants (although some studies have shown that potted plants do not significantly increase mold spores).
- Repair any plumbing leaks, especially under cabinets.
How to Avoid the Flu This Winter
While an immune response to allergens can cost you lot of time and energy trying to manage and minimize, contagious respiratory pathogens like influenza create a wholly different immune response.
Schedule Your Flu Vaccine
It’s science, y’all: the CDC recommends annual influenza vaccines to combat community spread as early in the season as soon as possible. It’s one of the best ways to prevent coming down with a serious, terrible flu. Many different flu vaccines are available, so talk to your doctor to find out which is best for you.
Stock Up on Vitamin C
Grab the oranges, but ditch the orange juice. Oranges are high in vitamin C, which is known for its ability to boost the immune system. However, the sugar found in orange juice can do just the opposite — suppress the immune system.
Eat plenty of foods high in vitamin C to help promote good health this season. Here are just a few of the delicious foods rich with this immune system-boosting vitamin:
- Bell peppers
Wear a Mask
After the past two-and-half years of living with another airborne respiratory virus, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It’s a simple and effective nonpharmaceutical measure you can do to protect yourself against an airborne H1N1 virus. (And it doesn’t involve getting a needle in your arm.)https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2014564118
You should at least wear one when you think you might be sick to avoid spreading your cold and flu germs to others. NIOSH–approved N95 face masks filter up to 95% of germ particles in the air with proper fit.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
Since we’re talking about covering your face, make sure you try not to use hands while do it. It’s worth reminding that properly worn face covers and consistent hand hygiene can minimize exposure to any potential community spread of communicable respiratory viruses.
It’s simple, but it’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from all the germs lurking on common surfaces you touch daily, like doorknobs, stair rails, cell phones and computer keyboards. Wash your hands before you eat and after using the restroom, shaking hands with someone, using public transit and doing pretty much anything in public.
You know the drill.
Feed Your Body the Nutrient It Needs
Besides loading up on vitamin C-rich foods, make sure you add other foods that offer flu-fighting benefits. Greek yogurt is a great option because it can help balance bacteria in the gut, which reduces your susceptibility to infections. You can also use it as a base for sweet or savory meals.
Sardines — however controversial taste-wise — offer vitamin D, which is important for immune system regulation.
Garlic is another powerful food that can help combat viruses. Just remember to brush your teeth really well after scarfing down the tasty (but odorous) cloves.
[Related: Guide to Seasonal Allergy Triggers]
When you have the flu, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Make sure you stay hydrated so that your body can function the best it can. Water intake can also help break up congestion and ease breathing.
If you’re not a huge fan of plain water, consider drinking hot ginger or herbal teas, soup broths or 100% juices (beware of sugar). Pedialyte and low-sugar, electrolyte-enriched sports drinks can also give you a boost if you’re suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.
Get Enough Sleep
The holiday season can be so busy that getting enough sleep drops pretty low on your list of priorities. After all — there are presents to wrap and cookies to bake! Nonetheless, getting around seven to eight hours of sleep each night can be essential for defending your body against icky flu viruses, so try to catch those z’s.
Protect yourself and others by staying home when you’re sick or feeling like you’re coming down with something. If you do catch the flu, cold or another contagious illness, do everyone a favor and call in sick.
In today’s go-go-go world, powering through your deadlines to stay on your boss’s good list can be tempting. But spreading germs to the rest of the office won’t help you get ahead. Have some common courtesy for yourself and those around you — stay home until you’re feeling better and no longer contagious.
Plus, working when you’re sick can actually increase the time it takes you to recover, and no one wants that. Take a few days to rest, recuperate and take care of yourself.
[Related: How to Find Relief From Snoring and Sleep Apnea This Holiday Season]
Meet With an Allergist
Taking care of your body is important during Houston’s fall allergy season. Unmanaged allergies can result in fever, asthma, sinus infections, and other health complications. The majority of the time people tend to take antibiotics as a cure for allergies. They are not. Most of the time, over-the-counter medications may not bring the relief you’re looking for.
This year, don’t let allergies keep you from enjoying a day outside or make you feel unwell in your own home. Meet with an allergist so that you can put a stop to your recurring symptoms.
At Pasha Snoring & Sinus Center, we help you identify your allergies and create a treatment plan. We dedicate ourselves to finding the best, longest-lasting solutions for your asthma and allergy symptoms.
Secure an appointment today to begin exploring options for long-term relief.