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Due to the climate of the Lone Star State, winter allergies in Houston tend to be more aggressive than in east coast cities such as New York. Since the mercury doesn’t drop to freezing during winter, January tends to be about the same temperature as spring in a winter climate city.
If you notice that your winter allergies have been getting worse, you’re not the only one experiencing the uncomfortable side effects of pollen and other allergens flowing through the air.
Unlike American cities with winter and snow, Houston features pollens that are present all year, including mold and pollen from weeds. Cities such as Boston and Chicago typically experience winters that don’t have any pollen because the cold temperatures and snow prevent plants from delivering pollen. Mold spores also become reduced in frosty conditions, preventing winds from distributing the allergens across cities.
Without a frost that kills mold and weed, Houston doesn’t get a chance to clear the air and reduce the amount of particulate allergens circulating throughout the region. This causes an extended allergy season that may last all year long, preventing sufferers from enjoying any sort of relief.
If you moved into the Houston area over the past year and only recently notice allergy symptoms manifesting in your ears, nose and throat, there’s a good chance that you will deal with these issues on a regular basis moving forward. Most allergy sufferers must be exposed to allergens for just under a year before the symptoms start to cause problems. After the body’s exposed to the pollen and other particles, the immune system learns to flush the invading particles through a running nose, sneezing, red eyes and other uncomfortable reactions.
The variety of plants and flowers in and around the city of Houston results in a high rate of allergies compared to other places in the United States. In fact, Houston contains pollens that can’t be found elsewhere in the country. The timing of pollen release also complicates matters, beginning in January and continuing into late autumn.
Houston’s air pollution also contributes to problems with allergies. Heavy smog complicates the situation by making it more difficult for the body to deal with allergens, increasing symptoms such as itching, sneezing and inflammation. As a significant manufacturing and production hub that produces around “a quarter of the nation’s gasoline, and about a third of the plastics,” Houston’s industrial activity all but guarantees that allergy victims will deal with a combination of allergies and pollution a few times each year.
Some doctors hypothesize that Houston’s pollution actually results in less exposure required to trigger allergic sensitivities. Others believe that a perceived rise in allergy rates has to do with the “hygiene hypothesis,” which posits that an increased rate of environmental sterilization prevents children from developing healthy immune systems. Without exposure to common infectious agents, the body doesn’t have an opportunity to develop an appropriate response, leading to increased rates of allergies and asthma.
Regardless of the pollen levels, maintaining clean air within the household and workspace helps to give you a break when you’re not travelling around the city. Air systems should be outfitted with HEPA filters to remove allergens as much as possible. Vacuuming dust and keeping bedroom sheets clean will further reduces negative effects. Over the counter medication made of anti-histamines also provides temporary relief.
For those who deal with extreme, persistent symptoms, visiting a clinic that specializes in treatment of severe allergies may be the only defense against suffering through Houston’s unique combination of pollen and pollution.
Houston Sinus & Allergy specializes in treating nasal and sinus conditions and providing allergy care. Our practice is committed to helping you find long term relief from your symptoms. Dr. Nguyen is a Board Certified ENT – Head and Neck Surgeon with extensive training & experience in diseases of the ears, nose & throat.
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