People walk in a park under oak trees

How to fight tree pollen this spring

Last year, tree pollen counts in the Houston area broke records in April. Now, a year later, those levels are climbing again.  

Anything over 1,500 grains per cubic meter of air is concerning to health officials, and the oak pollen alone hit 3,298 on March 13, according to the Houston Health Department. Mold is also rated “very high” right now.  

Some residents are working overtime with leaf blowers, water hoses and car wash stations to reduce the yellow pollen film covering surfaces, but those suffering with seasonal allergy symptoms need to avoid exposure as much as they can.  

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tens of millions of Americans suffer from allergy symptoms caused by exposure to tree, grass and weed pollens. From sneezing to coughing, seasonal allergy symptoms can sometimes be disruptive and debilitating. While individuals can find over-the-counter solutions to treat symptoms, working with an allergist will help you discover what’s causing your suffering so that you can better work toward stopping it. 

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to help you deal with the yearly pollen scourge.  

  1. Monitor pollen and mold counts. Weather reports in newspapers and on radio and television often include this information during allergy seasons. There are also resources at that can help track these allergens. 
  2. Keep windows and doors shut at home and in your car during allergy season.  Use the air conditioning in your home and car.  Avoid using window fans that can draw pollens and mold into the house. 
  3. Know your pollens and their season. To avoid pollen, know which pollens you are sensitive to and then check pollen counts. In spring and summer, during tree and grass pollen season, levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning.  Avoid being outside when there is lots of wind blowing pollen around. 
  4. Take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors. Taking off your shoes can help avoid bringing pollen into your home.  
  5. Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when mowing the lawn or doing other chores outdoors and take appropriate medication beforehand. 

Whether your reaction to seasonal allergens is on the mild or severe side, consider incorporating some or all of the tips into your daily life to help decrease the symptoms you’re experiencing. 

Jennifer McCracken, MD

Dr. Jennifer McCracken is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, specializing in Allergy and Immunology.