Allergy season is making an early appearance on the South Plains as the air becomes filled with pollen from weeds and, soon, several West Texas crops.
"We've seen a lot of sick patients," Dr. Suzanne Beck said. "We have weeds from the Amaranth family, which are weeds like careless weeds and the tumble weed. Then, we'll soon get a new wave of ragweed in as well. Then, we'll start to see products from the harvest like corn and cotton. Those will also put antigens in the air that will cause allergies."
Beck, medical director of the Allergy and Asthma Clinic of West Texas, said allergy sufferers can see symptoms ranging from itchy eyes, runny or stuffy nose to wheezing and asthma or even eczema.
"There's an array of things people can do for their allergies," Beck said. "Initially, most patients have tried taking an antihistamine, perhaps an over-the-counter antihistamine or even a prescription antihistamine. But, one of the better therapies for, especially allergic rhinitis, is the use of intranasal steroids."
According to Beck, any preventative nose spray, over-the-counter or prescription, should be started as soon as possible. If you need treatment of any current symptoms, she suggests the antihistamine.
"I typically try to teach patients antihistamines work best for runny nose," Beck said. "They work best for drainage and they also help itchy skin and itchy eyes. Decongestants are primarily used for stuffiness. There is some caution with use of decongestants because they can raise your blood pressure. They can cause problems with the prostate so they need to be used cautiously, especially if you are using something over-the-counter."
Beck warns antihistamines cause drowsiness but some are labeled as non-sedating.Typical over-the-counter brands are Claritin, Zyrtec and Xyzal.
The end of fall allergy season is expected around the first part of December and after a hard freeze to decrease the pollen count. However, Dr. Beck said there's something else to be ready for after that.
"Interestingly, even though the pollen drops in the winter months there's something called the house dust mite," Beck said. "He likes to grow in the winter months when our skin is a little drier because they eat the skin cells people shed. About the time we get rid of fall pollens, the house dust mites start to flourish. Then after Christmas, we move into mountain cedar and into trees. It's almost a continual array of pollens in West Texas."