More than once, we put on our rain boots and danced in it.
Some parts of this atypical South Texas weather pattern we’d rather forget. The flooding, the lightning strikes, and the outdoor events cancelled by the storms. Other aspects of the rain have been good for our community, helping the Aquifer rise and drought-stricken areas flourish with greens that actually stay, well, green.
Then, there’s this: Allergies. While the rain immediately sends pollen numbers falling (but mold numbers soaring), once the skies dry and the wind picks up, the rain actually worsens our seasonal allergies.
“If allergy symptoms get worse during the rain it’s usually due to the rain saturating the pollen and causing it to split releasing more allergen particles into the air,” says Dr. Patricia Gomez Dinger, Board Certified Allergist with Advanced Allergy Asthma and Immunology with offices in Stone Oak and Schertz, TX. Dr. Dinger adds the more rain, the more growth of grass, plants, and trees, which later increases pollen production and that’s bad news for allergies.
Remember how abundant those bluebonnets were across South Texas this spring? As beautiful as they were, that was sign number one that it was going to be a more severe allergy season for those who suffer from pollen. Even though it’s not bluebonnets that produce the pollen that typically affects allergy sufferers, those radiant blooms in full force were a sign of what’s to come.
First, to understand this heavy rain allergy connection, let’s talk pollen. Pollen is defined as tiny grains needed to fertilize many kinds of plants, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Did you know pollen from plants with colorful flowers usually do not cause allergies? It is the plants that produce a powdery pollen and be easily spread by the wind that can cause allergy symptoms. In San Antonio and Austin, think oak pollen. You know, that greenish-brownish stuff you find all over your windshields and glass doors in the spring.
Spring 2015 brought with it, higher pollen levels. Summer is following suit. Grasses are recording at high levels and ragweed is expected to hit hard come August. Dr. Patricia Gomez Dinger expects ragweed pollen to be greater than the last three years. What does this mean for allergy sufferers? Prepare to suffer. Medically and financially.
“People come into my office after having exhausted a lot of time and money in attempts to treat their seasonal allergies without a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, ” says Dr. Dinger. She adds, “It can add up”.
On average, a family will try and pay for four to five over the counter treatments before seeking out a specialist and continuing treatment. At ten to 17 dollars a pop, consumers are looking to shell out a good fifty bucks for over the counter treatment that may or may not work. It’s bad news for consumers’ pockets. It’s worse for employers. Allergic rhinitus is the 5th leading chronic disease and a major cause of work absenteeism and presenteeism, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. The pair results in nearly 4 million missed or lost workdays each year, resulting in a total cost of more than $700 million dollars in total lost productivity. That’s in a relatively non-severe allergy season.
“People don’t give allergies enough credit,” says Dr. Dinger. The San Antonio Allergist says allergies, when untreated, can be a huge burden, medically and economically.
So, what can seasonal allergy sufferers do to save costs in a more severe allergy season?
- Get tested. Plain and simple. A Board Certified Allergist can determine which allergens are causing symptoms and save you a lot of trial and error time and money.
- Be wary of non-certification. Dr. Dinger says she sees new patients who come to her after paying for and receiving unsuccessful diagnosis and/or treatment from doctors or companies that are not board certified in Allergy. In order to become board certified, an Allergist must first complete a sub-specialty in internal medicine or pediatrics and then continue with additional education and training in the specialty of allergy. From interpreting tests to forming treatment plans, a board certified allergist is specially trained with the proper and most up-to-date know-how.
- Minimize exposure to pollens by installing a HEPA air purifier in the home
- Undergo a trial of over-the-counter fluticasone.
- Minimize pollen by washing your hair and body before bed, bathing your pets more often (every other week) and vacuuming carpets often. Keep windows closed.
- Refrain from going outdoors on windy days or days when the pollen count is categorized as high, especially during peak pollen hours (mid-morning).
Follow these tips, especially having an accurate diagnosis and you don’t have to be miserable. Your nose, eyes, and throat will thank you. So just might your boss.