It’s no surprise to anyone who lives here that San Antonio consistently appears at the top of “best places to live” lists. We have a great climate, interesting cultural roots, first class universities and a solid economy—plus our Alamo City was recently named by Forbes as one of the top twenty places in the nation to invest in a home due to affordability and growth. But there’s one list I wish San Antonio didn’t find itself on the top of year after year—the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s (AAFA) “Allergy Capital” ranking.
Last year, San Antonio ranked 22nd out of 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas by pollen count, allergy medicine use, and allergy specialists. And now that cooler weather and pumpkin-spiced lattes are in the air, it’s time to break out the tissues. If you’ve recently noticed yourself sniffling, sneezing and rubbing your eyes, you can blame ragweed and mold. But the worst is yet to come—one of my team members noticed a few ashe juniper trees beginning to turn tawny orange on their tips up in the Hill Country, meaning it’s only a matter of time before cold fronts carry those hazy yellow clouds our way again. San Antonio transplants might not notice much at first, since it may take years of exposure for sufferers to develop full-blown “Cedar Fever” symptoms.
But once you have it, all you want to do is make it stop. Besides seeing your doctor and figuring out which antihistamine and nasal steroid spray to use, what can you do to make this year’s allergy season better than last? Unfortunately, no one has come out with a magic bullet that works to stop cedar suffering, but there’s quite a bit you can do to minimize the fallout from pollen.
Keep Pollen from Hitchhiking Back Home with You
- Change clothes, or better yet, take a shower, when you come home after being outdoors.
- Take shoes off at the door and ask guests to do the same.
- Get daily wear contacts or wear glasses to reduce irritants clinging to lenses.
- Groom your pets more often if they spend much time outdoors, or wipe down fur with a cleansing cloth made for pets.
Make Your Home a Fortress
- Don’t be tempted to open windows to enjoy that fall weather. With the cool breeze comes pollen. Keep windows closed and run the AC if necessary.
- Clean carpets regularly in the fall and winter or replace carpets with tile. Hard surfaces are easier to clean and don’t retain pollen like carpets do. If you can’t replace your carpets, use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter for best results.
- Whether you are sipping hot cocoa while cutting your own tree in the Hill Country, or choosing one at a tree lot near you, be sure to spray it off with a hose when you get home. If your allergies are severe, consider an artificial tree.
- Replace your furnace’s filter. A furnace filter should capture most of the irritants that may trigger winter allergies, but won’t be as effective once it’s clogged. Replace your filter now, and again in late December or January, to keep pollen to a minimum
Choose Your Moment
- Time your workouts. It’s best to avoid the outdoors during high pollen count days, but that’s not always practical. So avoid the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. window when most plants tend to pollinate. And skip the outdoor run and head to the gym on windy days, when pollen tends to get stirred around.
- Know your pollen count and plan accordingly—for a Facebook friendly listing of what allergens are in play on any given day, check out Dr. Paul Ratner’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/paulhratner.
And for those of you who haven’t seen the trees in action, take a look at this video from Youtube: