Houston’s weather has always had the reputation of being spastic. It’s not uncommon during the fall and winter to experience all four seasons in a 24-hour period.
While spring usually signals the beginning of warm sunny days, here in the Bayou City it means getting ready for a long, hot summer — all while also dealing with the dreaded pollen and hold spore count.
Yes, Houstonians, it’s allergy season, that time when your head feels like it’s going to explode and your nasal passages beg you to use a netti pot, while also begging you not to use a netti pot because it’s too cold and all you want to do is curl up and die, while sniffling and snorting.
The Houston Health Department has been tracking the city’s pollen and mold count this season, and yeah, it’s not good. Tree pollen in Houston as of March 29 was heavy at 1,380 pollen per cubic meter of air. Weed pollen, grass pollen and mold spores were all heavy as well, coming in 54, 61, and 14,978 pollen per cubic meter of air, respectively.
What does that mean? Your allergies are in for it..
Kristina Blanco is a senior paralegal with the City of Houston Legal Department’s general litigation section. She says every spring you can recognize her by her desk.
“This is the time of year where it is a threat to me, so yes you will see boxes of Vicks tissues on my desk, Vicks VapoInhaler, allergy medicine and Starbucks Medicine Ball teas,” she said.
At least she is ready.
But Aruoriwo Crouch, a chemist with the Houston Health Department’s Bureau of Laboratory Services Division of Public Health, said her allergies almost ruined her and her fiancé’s engagement photo session back in 2015.
“I had allergies on one of the most important days of my life,” she said. “I kept sneezing at one of the downtown Houston parks. The photographer had to adjust his photo timing because I would sneeze so often, and my eyes were getting red.”
Crouch made it through the shoot, then immediately bought some Flonase. It kicked in after she used it a few times later that day.
The next day? Not a single sneeze, she said.
“I didn’t sneeze at all!” Crouch said. “My allergies were only bad that one time when we were outside for the photo shoot. I usually only have allergies for a day, and when I do, I have bouts of sneezing and then no issues in the days after that.”
What to do
Heading into spring, allergy season is going to be here. To what degree is unknown. However, agencies provide the following tips to survive:
The Environmental Protection Agency lists three ways to improve your indoor air quality:
- Control contact with indoor airborne allergens.
- Ventilate indoors area well.
- Use air cleaners to clean indoor air.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends cleaning and reducing allergens in your home. The main sources of indoor allergens are:
- Wall-to-wall carpet
- Soft furniture
- Stuffed toys
- Damp areas
- Indoor plants
- Mattresses that aren’t in allergy covers
- Pillows and bedding you can’t wash in hot water
They also list the following steps to control indoor allergens:
- Control dust mites: Keep surfaces in your home clean and uncluttered. Bare floors and walls are best, especially in the bedroom. Avoid wall-to-wall carpet if you can. Also, avoid heavy drapes and overstuffed fabric furniture. Replace drapes and blinds with roll-down shades or washable curtains.
- Vacuum once or twice a week: Vacuuming helps keep allergens low. But poor-quality vacuums could put dust into the air. Use one that is certified allergy friendly.
- Prevent pet dander: People with pet allergies are allergic to animal dander which are shed skin cells that all animals have. Long-haired pets can also bring pollen inside in high pollen seasons like spring and fall.
- Keep windows and doors closed: Use air conditioning in warm weather to control dust mites and reduce humidity. Change filters often.
- Avoid mold spores: Reduce moisture around the bathroom, kitchen, and other areas where there is a lot of water. Consider using dehumidifiers to reduce both mold and dust mites.
- Control cockroaches: Cockroaches can cause allergic reactions in people. Use poison baits, boric acid and traps instead of chemicals. Chemicals may irritate your sinuses and asthma.