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Sneezing season: How to enjoy springtime during peak oak and grass allergy season


Currently reading this with itchy eyes or a runny nose? You're not alone—while Ausitnites are rarely given relief from yearlong allergies, the spring season brings on new concerns as pollen levels continue to rise.

According to The Weather Channel, tree and grass pollen in the air is reaching highs as spring goes into full bloom. But the same things that give plants green leaves and vibrant flowers could be causing a variety of allergy symptoms, especially to those irritated by oak pollen.

What allergens are out there?

While the dreaded "cedar fever" has tapered off, oak pollen counts reached a peak of 6,227 grams per meters cubed Sunday and remain at high levels alongside hackberry. Ash levels have fluctuated between medium and low levels in the last week.

Oak allergens typically peak as March transitions to April, while pecan pollen levels peak slightly later at the end of April. Elm and ash tend to taper off by the end of April, while grass allergens are expected to reach very high levels this week and remain high through early summer.

What symptoms do these cause?

Oak allergens affect around 30% of those with allergies and cause these symptoms:

  • stuffy or runny nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • red, watery eyes
  • itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • fatigue
  • (less common) dark circles under the eyes
Other tree allergies produce similar symptoms, and some pollens, including grass allergens, can cause welts or hives and even wheezing and shortness of breath for those with asthma.

Keeping those sneezes at bay

So how do you survive the "Allergy Capital of the World"?

It could be a good idea to stock up on those allergy meds and take your daily dosage before the day begins.

But Dr. Tenesha Wards, a local functional medicine expert who is often asked about tips at this time of year, favors more holistic and natural remedies, including:

  • Taking antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E, D, and zinc for immune health
  • Calming the bowels by avoiding refined sugars, which can lower the immune system and introduce constipation, gas and bloating
  • Taking Vitamin D—whether from the sun or a bottle—to support the immune system, increase energy and boost mood
Some other preventative steps can be taken to keep that pesky pollen at bay, including changing and washing clothes after being outside, avoiding exercising outside in the morning, and keeping home and car windows shut.
It's also a good idea to keep your grass short, wear sunglasses and hats outside, wash your hair more often and keep your home, pets and bedding cleaner during this season if you're sensitive to tree and grass allergens.

If you're still feeling miserable, your family doctor and various allergy docs around Austin can help with other treatment options as well.


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