It’s early November and North Texas is just now feeling the crisp bite of fall weather. As the trees turn colors and leaves begin to fall, allergens such as ragweed and mold begin to rise, resulting in watery and swollen eyes, sniffling and sneezing.
An overactive immune system that develops a hypersensitivity to normally harmless pollens, such as ragweed, is the cause of allergies. Symptoms are more likely to occur in the fall because that is when ragweed pollinates into the air, causing a person’s immune system to react.
Common symptoms include itchy eyes and a runny nose, but allergies can also cause an itchy throat, itching inside the nose, swollen eyelids or stuffy nose and in some people, it can cause fatigue or irritability.
“Treatment for ‘mild’ pollen allergy is simple,” said Matt Morgan, MD, an allergist on staff at Medical City McKinney. “Most over-the-counter medications and prescriptions are likely to work well.”
However, people with severe ragweed allergies may experience recurring sinus infections, severe eye symptoms, or it may even trigger serious asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest.
“When you experience severe symptoms that consistently result in sinus infections every season, then over-the-counter medications might not be effective,” said Dr. Morgan. “In the most severe cases, desensitization, such as allergy shots, might be the only available effective therapy.”
Pollen extract in allergy shots is specifically designed to treat the immune response to ragweed or other weed pollens. This approach may require regular trips to the doctor.
There are many effective over-the-counter solutions for allergy sufferers including Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra and Xyzal.
“Antihistamines are the most basic allergy medicine,” said Dr. Morgan. “Other options include steroid nasal spray such as Flonase and Nasacort, which benefit multiple symptoms including congestion, not treated with the oral antihistamines.”