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Fall Allergies in Oklahoma: What You Need to Know

10/16/2017

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It’s that time of year again. The air is crisp, the leaves are changing colors and football is in full swing. It’s time for cozy sweaters, pumpkin-flavored everything and nasal spray. That’s right: fall allergies are upon us and, for many, fall is the season of sneezing.

While Oklahoma is one of the worst states for fall allergies, there are many ways you can counteract symptoms. INTEGRIS physician, Erin Balzer, D.O., shares professional advice for beating fall allergies in Oklahoma.

Fall Allergens in Oklahoma

Ragweed, cedar and crabgrass, oh my! Oklahoma is full of allergens as the seasons change and different plants begin to pollinate. “Fall season began this year with more moisture, causing ragweed and tree pollination to kick up,” Dr. Balzer says. “There are also some grass allergens in the air and a little mold.”

Fall pollination typically lasts from the end of August until a hard freeze. These freezes usually don’t occur until November so allergy season can seem endless. Luckily, there are several ways to counteract the itchy, watery eyes and runny nose symptoms.

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Many allergy sufferers have symptoms including watery, itchy or red eyes, runny nose, congestion, itchy throat, cough, headaches and ear pain. “Many times, a patient will wake up with their nose stopped up but then have a runny nose all day and a cough from the drainage,” Dr. Balzer says.  “Headaches and ear pain can also result from congestion.”

So, how does one treat those symptoms?

Dr. Balzer suggests taking antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, steroid nasal spray or a saline rinse. When looking for a good rinse, Dr. Balzer reminds us that neti pots are crowd favorites when it comes to rinsing allergens out of the nose.

Home Remedies

In general, Dr. Balzer urges patients to practice overall wellness. “Eat well and take care of yourself,” she says. “It’s important that your immune system functions well and isn’t overactive.”

Essential oils are all the rage these days. Many claim diffusing oils such as peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, tea tree, or lemon help relieve allergy symptoms. It is important to remember to check the ingredients in essential oils as many are not 100 percent pure oil.

Practice caution when diffusing or ingesting essential oils. Dr. Balzer reminds us that people with asthma can experience irritation of their symptoms around diffusers. In addition, it’s important to consult with your doctor before ingesting essential oils as some oils can interact with certain medications.

Local honey is another popular home remedy among allergy sufferers. Local honey contains local pollens and it has been thought that ingesting small amounts of pollen from the area can help a body acclimate to the season. Although there have not been conclusive studies to prove the effects of local honey, many users claim it helps with symptom relief.

Certain foods contain properties that may help decrease inflammation. Incorporating foods such as green, leafy vegetables, nuts, avocados and fatty fish can help curb inflammation and relieve allergy symptoms. Dr. Balzer urges patients to contact their doctor before incorporating magnesium supplements into their diet as it can interact with certain medications.

For more information on the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, see our Integrative Medicine Minute with Juli Johnson: Why an Anti-Inflammatory Diet is Good for your Health.

Fall Allergy Prevention

It can be difficult to avoid allergy triggers when you have to go outdoors. Luckily, precautions can be taken to limit exposure.

  • Wear a mask when working in the yard. Masks can filter allergens out of the air you breathe and can keep grass from touching your mouth and nose.
  • Change clothes and shower after spending time outdoors – especially before bed. Pollen can land on your clothes and hair. Don’t let it settle into your furniture as well.
  • Wash your hands after petting animals or working outdoors.
  • Change air filters regularly. Certain types can filter out allergens.
  • Keep windows closed in your home and car.
  • Check pollen counts daily and limit outdoor activities accordingly.

When to See a Doctor

Dr. Balzer suggests that patients visit their primary care physician if over-the-counter medications have been used consistently for two weeks with little to no improvement. “If you’ve tried treatments at home consistently for two weeks with no improvement or develop new or worsening symptoms, such as a fever, this may be a sign that another sort of infection is occurring,” she says.

Dr. Balzer warns against using a nasal rinse if a patient has developed a fever or continuously worsening symptoms over three days. These could be signs of infection. Rinses can spread infections through the nasal passages.

Primary care physicians can prescribe medications such as steroids, eye drops with antihistamines or Singulair to help relieve allergy symptoms. In the case of chronic allergies, the patient may be referred to an allergist who may advise regular allergy shots.

From air filters to steroids, there are many solutions to Oklahoma allergies. A variety of precautions can be taken to limit allergen exposure and a variety of treatments can be utilized to relieve symptoms. There’s no need to feel under the weather this fall!

For more information on allergy symptoms, treatments, causes and services contact your INTEGRIS physician or visit INTEGRIS Allergy and Immunology