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Can You Become Allergic to a City?

allergy-treatment-houstonAn allergy is an unexpected and negative reaction to materials, substances or environmental conditions that have no effect on most people, but cause the patient symptoms troublesome to their health and well-being.  Their adverse responses occur when the substance is inhaled, eaten or comes in contact with the skin or eyes.

When people think of allergies, they most often picture allergic rhinitis – typified by running nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and watery eyes.  It is more commonly know as hay fever, perhaps the most prevalent of allergies.

However, it is a mistake to associate hay fever only with grass and tree pollen, received either through direct contact or from airborne sources.  Other origins include exposure to house-derived dust-mites and pet dander, making the incidence of hay fever very much a product of the surrounding environment.

The same is true for most allergies, whether their origin is air pollution or spores from mold, contact with chemicals or reactions to food, among numerous other sources.  In addition to frequent sinus infections, allergies can cause asthma, bronchitis, ear aches, eczema, migraines, and sleep disorders.

Evidence of the correlation between environmental exposure and allergic reactions is growing, suggesting that people can, in time, grow allergic to not only to conditions in their personal residence, but also to the city where they live.

Contracting Urban Allergies

One may become allergic to a particular city’s ecosystem – its public transportation, parks, government buildings, stores, schools, restaurants, residential areas, and so forth.  These sites may carry a collective “bug” sufficient to generate troublesome reactions to daily life, that can sometimes be dangerous to people’s health.   Much depends on how one’s immune system reacts to the surrounding conditions.

Reactions can change over time, leading to the development of “city-allergies,” caused by such normal urban conditions as noise, over-crowding, mold from older buildings, air pollution, roaches and other vermin, among numerous infectious factors.

Moreover, the evidence strongly suggests one need not be born with an allergy, resulting from genetic circumstances, but can be afflicted with one later in life.  One can acquire allergic responses over time, a development of living in a particular place too long.  Houston is no different from other cities in this respect.

Houston Allergies

As it turns out, spring of 2104 was one of the unhealthiest on record for Houston, for sufferers of allergic rhinitis.  Pollen counts in 2014 were 250% higher than the average of the previous four years.  These conditions severely affected those prone to sneezing, itchy eyes, runny noses, and congestion.  As such, allergy treatment in Houston was confronted by a need for a new level of allergy management from the first of the year.

Brought along in early January from tree pollen created by such native trees as ash, cedar, elm, pine, and oak, the impact was compounded by allergy producing grass pollen that surfaced in March.  Lasting through early August, their effect was longer than usual.  Then in August, rag weed hay fever pollens became prominent through early October.  All were at levels that well exceeded the local norm for Houston.

But the need for more comprehensive allergy treatment in Houston only began there, since other sources of rhinitis were also in evidence.  The city’s typically high-level humidity and air pollution increased the risk of fungal exposure to allergens not only for hay fever, but for a range of other allergies as well; these include asthma and alveolitis, which both reduce:

  • the elasticity of the lungs during breathing, and
  • the efficiency of transference of gases between the lungs and surrounding blood vessels.

These factors combined with the progressive worsening headache, fevers, and proptosis common to the allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS), that can result from exposure to urban fungal contaminants.

Indoor environments can also trigger allergy symptoms.  These conditions are caused by inhalation or bodily contact with fungal spores often found in older buildings located in urban areas.  They can have serious consequences for sufferers.  Humidity combined with the lingering effects of Hurricane Ike, which caused city-wide damage to the metropolitan housing stock.  These factors created indoor environments that generated extensive mold and fungal colonization in both older and newer buildings.

All aspects of allergy treatment in Houston have been complicated by the expanded emergence of fungal sources of allergies.  Add to this the effects of air pollution, where the city’s air quality has suffered due to:

  • increasing auto traffic, and
  • its proximity to commercial shipping canals used by the huge metropolitan petrochemical complex,
  • which has also had a detrimental impact of water quality.

To this extent, the visible haze over the city’s outlying areas has added to the number of asthma and related respiratory allergies affecting its citizens.  In addition to gaseous petroleum emissions and ozone, Huston’s citizens can develop allergies to particulate matter, a combination of solids and aerosols suspended in the air.

Because of Houston’s significant commercial involvement in petrochemicals, these allergies are more likely the kind someone moving to the city may develop after several years residence, particularly if they’ve never before lived in an oil refining region.  The effectiveness of allergy treatment in Houston is also made more difficult by this specialized response to the metropolitan environment.

Dust mites in Houston may or may not be worse than anywhere else, but their undeniable existence provides another source of allergic reactions.  In addition. the incidence of food allergies is higher in urban areas throughout the nation.

Allergy Treatment in Houston                                                               

Allergy treatment in Houston is confronted by a wide-ranging collection of allergies.  While some can be contracted in many different locales, others are more typical to the Houston region.

For instance, the city’s level of humidity and its reliance on petrochemical firms to sustain the economy are relatively unique.  They also represent the types of allergies that can develop among non-native residents, people who have moved to Houston for whatever reason and subsequently acquired allergic conditions.  Their immune systems have been unable to sustain or develop suitable resistance to the conditions that caused the allergies.

The situation is further complicated in major city like Houston, with its large, mobile population.  Interaction with others is far more likely, as is exposure not only to allergic substances, but also to the non-allergic triggers – cigarette smoke, perfume, etc. – that stimulate them.

The safest, most reliable method of treating allergies is simple avoidance of the relevant allergen.  For instance,

  • Keeping household humidity between 30%-50%, to limit dust-mite growth.
  • Remaining indoors when pollen/pollution/smog levels are high.

Allergy treatment in Houston may also include:

  • Antihistamine drugs, which are useful for easing sinus congestion, itching caused by eczema or insect/rodent bites, and the sleeplessness that can accompany some allergies.
  • Corticosteroid drugs, which may be used orally for asthma or topically for eczema.
  • Immunotherapy, helpful for allergic reactions to house-dust mites, insect bites and some pollen.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms from allergies, let us help you find relief.  You can eitherbook an assessment or contact us today!


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