Annoying Allergies

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The allergy season is a fact of life in North Texas, but there are ways to fight back both medically and over the counter.

It’s always allergy season in North Texas. The only thing that changes is which allergen is currently causing the most problems. The fall allergy season has a rough one, “especially compared to last year,” according to Fort Worth allergist Dr. Susan Bailey with Fort Worth Allergy and Asthma Associates.

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“Last year, the heat and the drought were so bad that the weeds and things that cause allergies didn’t stand a chance. This year, the allergies seem much worse in comparison,” she said. “And the fall allergies started earlier this year since the cooler weather started earlier. Every cool front that comes through pushes in a new wall of pollen from the Midwest.”

In North Texas, the allergy seasons tend to overlap one another, Bailey said. As one allergen dies out, another blossoms. Cedar Elm, “which can really cause a lot of misery” for those with allergies, blooms in the early fall, along with ragweed, which this year was “rejuvenated” by the increase in rain.

Those two die down as the weather gets colder. But other hardier species, such as Mountain Cedar, then move to the front of the allergen line. And molds tend to be more resistant to cold and can stay active nearly year-round.

“Fortunately, we are blessed these days to have a lot of effective allergy medications available over the counter without a prescription,” Bailey said.

Those products include Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine) and NasalCrom (Cromolyn Sodium Nasal Solution). There are also eye drops that can help with the itchy eyes that often accompany allergies.

But the thing to remember, Bailey said, is that these are preventatives: “You have to take these every day for them to be effective. You can’t just take them when your allergies get bad. The NasalCrom is purely preventative. It does nothing at all for you after you are already suffering from allergies.”

If the OTC options don’t help, Bailey said, “contact your doctor to see about getting one of the nasal steroids or the steroid shots or pills. Singulair [montelukast sodium, a prescription asthma medicine] is also prescribed for some allergies.”

And if you still don’t get relief? Then, Bailey recommended, “see an allergist and get tested to see if you are a candidate for allergy shots.” She cautioned against treating allergies as a minor annoyance, saying that allergies can lead to recurring sinus infections and even asthma-like symptoms such as tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, some 20 million people in this country suffer from asthma, and at least half of that number have “allergic asthma,” a type of asthma triggered by allergies. The Mayo Clinic notes that some allergy treatments, such as Singulair and allergy shots, can also be effective in treating asthma, as well. But most treatments are designed to treat either allergies or asthma, but not both.

Allergies can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to rest well. “When you don’t sleep soundly, you end up being chronically fatigued, and that can really impact your overall quality of life,” she said. “So treat your allergies. Find what works for you and use it. Because when you sleep well, you feel better. And when you feel better, your life is better all the way around.”