Fort Worth

Sneezing? Coughing? Find out what's making allergy sufferers feel so miserable

If you're sneezing, just consider it an annual rite of spring.

With temperatures warming up, pollen counts have been soaring across North Texas.

The main culprits are grass and trees, which have been fluctuating between moderate and high levels for the last few weeks.

"This is kind of our peak of the spring season with trees pollinating and the grasses starting to pollinate," said Shelly Harvey, an allergist who practices at the UT Southwestern Monty and Tex Moncrief Medical Center in Fort Worth.

"The trees have a short but strong pollination season, but the grasses have a much longer season," Harvey said. "Both of these allergies can hit people pretty hard."

Harvey has several tips for allergy sufferers.

"First, I always recommend washing the nose out with salt water," she said. "Then on top of that, there are over-the-counter nasal sprays and antihistamines that can help."

Other allergists have recommended antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin and Allegra, as well as nasal sprays such as Flonase, Nasacort and Nasonex. They also recommend prescription eye drops if the other tips don't work, along with some practical advice.

"I really hate to say it, but the best advice may be to stay indoors on these windy days," said Fort Worth allergist John Fling, who is based at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

And Fort Worth allergist James Haden advises taking extra precautions while working around the yard, including changing clothes once you enter the house.

"It’s a good idea to wear wraparound glasses to keep pollen out of the eyes and to remove clothes before you go inside to keep from tracking pollen indoors," Haden said. "Also, rinse off and especially wash your hair after spending time outdoors. Once the pollen is indoors, the sun, the wind and the rain are no longer breaking it down, so it can continue to be a problem for a long time after the actual pollen season ends."

If none of the over-the-counter medicines work, Harvey advises allergy sufferers to get tested by an allergist. That could lead to allergy shots. But if grass is causing all the sneezing, Fling said there's also a tablet or drops that can be placed under your tongue.

There is one piece of good news. Tree pollen should start to decrease over the next several weeks, helping some feel better.

"I think we've probably got another three weeks or so and then it should start settling down," Fling said.

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna
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