While spring usually draws us outdoors, Oklahoma’s tree and grass pollens can keep allergy sufferers inside.
Dr. Gregory Metz, with Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic in Oklahoma City, says common tree pollens in the spring include mountain cedar, red cedar, pecan, oak, cottonwood and elm.
“Mountain cedar is an invasive tree that is a regional allergen in Texas and Oklahoma,” he says. “It can lead to severe allergy symptoms, often referred to as ‘cedar fever,’ that occur in the winter and early spring.”
With summer come grass pollens, while weed allergens are typical in autumn. Mold allergens are present all year, and indoor allergens include pet dander, dust mites and roaches.
Metz says common allergy symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip, ear-popping and itchy eyes.
“Allergy testing is an important part of treating allergies, whether symptoms are year-round or episodic. It can help identify what you are allergic to so that environmental changes can be made to reduce exposures,” says Metz, adding that testing can identify when medications are needed or if immunotherapy would help.
Dr. Lodie Naimeh, with Allergy Clinic of Tulsa, says it’s important to treat allergies promptly to prevent complications, such as sinus and ear infections, and bronchial and asthma symptoms.
She says steroid shots given once or twice a year are not allergy shots. They are high doses of steroid to help relieve acute symptoms; these can last in the body as long as three months and excessive use of these shots can be detrimental – and they are not without serious side effects.
Naimeh adds, “Allergy shots, on the other hand, are prepared at allergy offices based on allergy testing, and these are given in incremental dosing to build up immunity against the allergens and eventually get rid of the allergies.”
“Any person with sinus symptoms that are worsening and associated with vision loss, seeing double, high fevers or severe neck pain should consider going to the emergency room for evaluation of their sinuses.”
Chris Baranano, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with Integris in Oklahoma City, says inflammation and infection are the two primary issues affecting the nose and sinuses that cause people to experience congestion, facial pressure, blockage and drainage.
He says that while medical management may control the underlying issues of sinus inflammation, an individual’s anatomy of the nose, the surrounding cavities and the pathways connecting them may limit treatments that would resolve an otherwise temporary inflammation or infection. For example, it’s not unusual for a patient to have polyps in the sinus cavities, causing medication and sprays to be less effective.
Ignoring sinus-related symptoms carries a low risk of missing a disease that could worsen or be more serious than expected, Baranano says.
“Chronic sinusitis, nasal symptoms such as congestion or blockage or face, eyes or head symptoms such as pressure should be evaluated if they last more than three months or have recurred multiple times throughout the year, requiring multiple antibiotics,” he says. “Any person with sinus symptoms that are worsening and associated with vision loss, seeing double, high fevers or severe neck pain should consider going to the emergency room for evaluation of their sinuses.
“When there is a new mass in the face, ulcers within the roof of the mouth or near teeth, numbness over the upper lip or distortion of the cheek bone, you should move quickly and not delay an evaluation, as this area can be affected by diseases or tumors that start within the sinuses.”