Houston Matters

Houston seasonal allergies are at an all-time high, but so are indoor allergies. Expert gives tips on treating them.

Overall the tree pollen count is over 2,500 per cubic meters of air.  



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Tree pollen counts are currently extremely heavy across Houston, especially pollen from oak trees, according to the Houston Health Department’s latest report on allergens across the city.

There are other day-to-day challenges as well: weeds and mold spores outdoors plus animal dander, dust, certain foods indoors.

Dr. Dat Tran is with the Innovative Allergy Clinic. He spoke to Houston Matters with Craig Cohen on Thursday and said this year’s pollen count is unusual.

“Normally oak pollen really peaks between mid-to-later March, and just this week … [Thursday] is over 2,000 pollen per cubic meter of air, which is high,” Tran said.

Overall the tree pollen count is over 2,500 per cubic meters of air.

The pandemic phase of COVID-19 has passed, but with the virus still circulating it can make it tough to determine what’s causing people problems.

“It’s challenging when you have friends who are sneezing and coughing,” he said. “If you have the symptoms, how do you know if its infectious, versus allergies?”

One way he said you can see the difference is by taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine like Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra.

“The difference is like night and day,” he said. “If it’s a cold, you’re miserable and nothing is helping. That is infectious.”

Dr. Tran said another more natural way to fight allergies is through an allergy shot, or sublingual droplets like Ollereg.

“That can locally treat your allergies without having to come to the doctor’s office to get an allergy shot,” Dr. Tran said.

Astepro is an over-the-counter nasal spray that helps relieve allergy symptoms quickly, he said. Pataday Extra Strength eye drops are good for itchy and runny eyes, he added.

Indoor allergens can be just as bad, he warned. Dust mites are a problem in Houston.

“Houston is a humid and warm city. So dust mites require humidity in the air and the warmth to grow,” he said. “If you have the humidity above 55%, temperature above 74 degrees, dust mite grows.”

He said there’s an easy way to tell dust mite symptoms:

“Usually at night when you crawl in your bed you start to get this congestion, this mucus drain, and by the morning more drainage. And throughout the day if you’re working from home, you get this sinus pressure, this headache, this foggy brain, and in some other sensitive areas you get itchy skin, hives, and you have breathing problems.”

Mold and pet dander can also be problems.

Another way to know if indoor allergies are the problem, rather than pollen, is if symptoms show up in the evening, or when a person is indoors.

“It’s either dust mites or unless you have a new pet,” he said. “The best way is to get an allergy test to know what we’re dealing with.”

If symptoms persist daily, it’s also unlikely to be a pollen issue and could be an indoor allergen.

“Dust mite is a natural creature, and what they do is they eat on your dead skin,” he said. “So it’s in your bedding, your sofa, your carpet, fabric upholster. But what you’re allergic to is the feces that they make and they’re heavy. So getting an air filter is not going to do it because it’s not like pollen in the air.”

“The best thing you can do is drop your AC down to 70 degrees, get a de-humidifier. Do not get a humidifier. Houston is a humidifier.”

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