Spring time brings showers and luscious greenery to Southern Oklahoma. It also brings sniffles, and for some, worse.
For asthma and allergy sufferers, pollen and other allergens bring misery along with the beauty of the season. Dr. Jason Sigmon, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at Ardmore’s Mercy Hospital, said anticipation, and prevention, are key.
“The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure definitely applies to allergies,” Sigmon said.
Allergy season, or spring in Southern Oklahoma, begins with tree pollens. If you step outside, the white blooms on the Bradford Pears are abundant. Those allergens coupled with high winds make sure everyone is exposed. Those with known allergies or other conditions, like asthma, should minimize their exposure, said Sigmon. Those who take allergy medicine regularly should do so before allergies kick up, Sigmon said. Sometimes when allergens are low it’s okay to not take them, but they tend to work better prior to exposure, rather than waiting until after allergens are abundant.
 Pollen counts are available from a number of sources, Sigmon said. As the season ramps up, additional allergens come into play. Grass and weeds, then mold spores flourish as the moisture increases, all of which are major allergy triggers, Sigmon said he encourages those taking over-the-counter remedies touch base with their general practitioner to see if a stronger prescription medication may be more effective for their symptoms. Doctors can also refer to an allergy specialist if more specialized hep is needed.
Allergy testing, which used to be a 2-3 hour painful ordeal, can now be done without needles in about 30-45 minutes, Sigmon said. The process still requires skin reactions to be measured, but it is less painful and time consuming than it used to be. Sigmon said those tested in adulthood rarely have significant changes in their allergic reactions, but some children’s immune systems change enough to warrant retesting. He also said those who were tested prior to moving to the area may need to be retested if they are having severe reactions to regional allergens.
Like allergy testing, therapies have improved. For those who need specialized treatment, immunotherapy through desensitization or ‘allergy shots,’ can be done as little as once a week, where they used to be done several times a week for maximum effectiveness. Sigmon said some patients may be able to have their treatment delivered sublingually.
If you’re struggling with allergy symptoms, or if allergens are exacerbating asthma or sinus issues, the best thing is to stay inside and minimize exposure, Sigmon said.