Oklahoma is known for its prairies, rolling hills, and diverse landscapes. But for many residents, the changing of seasons brings on allergy season. Allergens in the state include tree, grass, and weed pollens, as well as mold and dust mites. They can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. This article delves into the peak timing and symptoms of Oklahoma’s allergy season. It also provides tips for managing and reducing the effects of allergens on you and your pets. Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, understanding allergy season can help make this time of year more comfortable.
What Causes Allergies?
Allergies are a reaction of the body to substances like pollen, pet dander, some kinds of foods, or insect stings. These allergens cause the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. These in turn cause symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and rashes. For people who are extremely allergic, exposure to an allergen can lead to anaphylaxis. In this life-threatening situation, a person can have difficulty breathing and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Over time, some people get over their allergies naturally, such as when children outgrow a food allergy. Other times, allergies may become worse and new allergies might develop. Allergies can be more or less severe depending on issues like temperature, humidity, and wind direction. For example, in damp and humid conditions, mold flourishes. Exceptionally dry years can stir up more dust and pollen and allow the wind to carry them greater distances.
How Are Allergies Treated?
Allergy symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and decongestants. They can also improve by avoiding things that seem to make the symptoms worse. If the cause is unclear and over-the-counter meds are not helping, allergy testing can identify the cause.
Testing involves putting small amounts of common allergens on the skin. The allergen goes under the skin and, if the patient is allergic to any substance, a welt will rise up. It is also possible to have a blood test to see if the body is producing antibodies against allergens. In some cases, immunotherapy can help someone overcome an allergy. This involves being injected with small amounts of the allergen over time until an immunity is built up.
If left untreated, allergies can result in complications. They can produce sinusitis, a painful inflammation of the sinuses. They can aggravate asthma symptoms, making breathing more difficult and increasing the frequency of asthma attacks.
Some people develop allergy symptoms without testing positive for any specific allergies. This condition is known as non-allergenic rhinitis. It can often be treated effectively with the same types of medications as allergies, although the cause is not known.
When is Allergy Season in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma has hot summers and mild winters. Allergens will differ somewhat depending on what part of the state you’re in. Eastern Oklahoma has a humid subtropical climate with forests of oak, hickory, and pine. The western part of the state has a semi-arid climate with rolling grasslands of buffalo grass, blue grama, and other species. These are some of the main environmental allergens in Oklahoma and the time of year when they are at their peak:
- Ragweed: This allergen is worst in late summer and early fall. The most common species of ragweed in Oklahoma include Giant ragweed and Common ragweed.
- Grass: Grass pollen is highest in the spring and early summer. The most common species of grass that cause allergies in Oklahoma include Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Orchard grass, and Timothy grass.
- Mold: Mold spores are present year-round, but are worst in the warm and humid summer months.
- Trees: Tree pollen is worst in the spring, with cedar, elm, oak, pecan, and pine being some of the most prevalent tree allergens in Oklahoma.
To prevent allergies of course it is helpful to know what you are allergic to. An allergist can test you for common allergens so that you know exactly what you need to avoid. Even if you don’t know what your allergy is, though, you can notice what times of the year your allergies seem to be worse, mark your calendar, and proactively begin taking over-the-counter allergy medications as that season kicks in for you.
Here are some other allergy-prevention tips:
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioning during allergy season
- Consider investing in a HEPA air purifier
- Shower and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove allergens
- Wash bedding, towels, and curtains in hot water to reduce dust mites
- Dust your house with microstatic cloths to pick up more dust and pollen without just stirring them up.
- Follow your local media or dedicated websites to monitor the daily pollen count in your area and avoid outdoor activities on high pollen days.
Best Over-The-Counter Allergy Treatments
Over-the-counter allergy medicines can be highly effective in treating allergy symptoms. You can start taking these proactively during the peak allergy season in Oklahoma. Generic versions are available of the most popular medications that are just as effective but much less expensive than brand names. Below are a few examples you can compare with your favorite brands:
- Active ingredient: Fexofenadine Hydrochloride
- 90 tablets of 180 mg
- 24-Hour Allergy Relief
Be sure to consult with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist to make sure any OTC meds you are contemplating will not interfere with other meds you may be taking.
What if Your Pet Has Allergies?
Pets can have allergies just like people, often to some of the same kinds of allergens. In fact, believe it or not, dogs can even be allergic to cats! Allergy symptoms to watch out for in your pets are licking the paws, scratching or biting at the skin, excessive grooming leaving bare patches of fur, drainage from nostrils or eyes, and difficulty breathing. Here are some of the most common types of allergies mammalian pets may develop:
- Food allergies: A pet may react to certain ingredients or additives in food. Some pets are allergic to some types of protein, such as beef, chicken, or fish. Switching to a lamb and rice kibble sometimes helps dogs with allergies.
- Environmental allergies: Pollen, mold, dust mites, and other allergens in the environment can affect pets just like they do humans. Removing allergens from the environment as much as possible helps, but pets may also need to take allergy medicine or even have immunotherapy.
- Flea allergies: Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Affected animals should have regular flea treatments and bedding should be washed regularly in hot water.
Consult with your veterinarian before treating your animal for allergies, as they will be able to advise you on the most common allergens affecting the species and breed of pet and the best way to treat it.
Can Pets Take Human Allergy Medicine?
Pets can take some of the same over-the-counter allergy medicines as people, but it is very important that you confer with a veterinarian. A vet can advise you which medicine will work best on your pet, and, crucially, which medicines to avoid and what the proper dosage is for your pet’s weight. Some medications that work for dogs, for example, may be toxic to cats. Pills may need to be broken in half and dosed spaced out throughout the day to avoid overdosing the animal. An allergy medicine that works for a while may after a time lose effectiveness and need to be replaced with a different one. A vet can also help monitor for complications, such as respiratory infections, that can develop out of allergy symptoms. Altogether, after you, the vet is your pet’s best friend!
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