If you live in North Texas, you likely suffer the irritating symptoms of seasonal allergies, including congestion, sniffling, sneezing, itching, stinging dry or watery eyes, wheezing, fatigue and more. Unfortunately, the problem is likely to get worse. According to research presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, pollen counts are expected to double by 2040.

Seasonal allergies affect millions of people every year. If you’re among them, it’s important to keep your symptoms under control so they don’t lead to more severe issues such as inflammation, ear infections or sinus infections.

What causes seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies plague North Texans roughly 10 months of the year. The yellowish, powdery pollen from trees, grasses and weeds are largely to blame. A species of mountain juniper called Ashe juniper is responsible for the misery known as cedar fever. Other seasonal culprits include ragweed and mold.

"Here in Dallas, allergy season begins in late December or early January and really picks up a lot in the middle of February,” says Richard Wasserman, MD, medical director of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas. “Most people feel better in the hot summer months when things aren't pollinating very much. In the north, the season starts later, but the grass season lasts all through the summer because it never gets hot enough to shut down pollination."

Dr. Wasserman answers more questions about allergies on NBC.com.

To help you avoid missteps that might trigger flareups, the experts at Medical City Healthcare want you to be aware of 5 ways you may be unintentionally making your seasonal allergies worse.

Waiting too long to start your allergy medication

Allergy medications are designed to prevent an allergic reaction and/or to treat the symptoms of one. If you take them before you have symptoms, you may be able to prevent them from starting. If you stop taking them, your symptoms are likely to return. The Allergy & Asthma Network recommends starting your allergy medications 2 to 4 weeks before the start of your allergy season.

BONUS TIP: Curtis Johnson, MD, an emergency medicine specialist at Medical City North Hills, explains why there may be another benefit to taking a daily seasonal allergy medication.

“Historically, I had only taken my allergy medicines if I really needed them,” Dr. Johnson says. “But since the start of COVID-19, I’ve begun taking them pretty consistently just so I could try to eliminate the allergy symptoms and better detect if I were starting to have COVID-like symptoms.”

Dr. Johnson says you can have allergies and COVID-19 at the same time. Listen to him talk more about allergies and COVID-19 on KRLD’s The Human Side of Health Care.

Waiting too long to replace air filters

Central furnace (HVAC) filters are designed to treat the air throughout an entire home, but many people don’t replace the filters often enough. This can make your allergies worse. Using an inexpensive filter can also contribute to allergy symptoms.

Using high-efficiency filters and sticking to a regular maintenance schedule can help reduce allergens. You may also want to try a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in high-traffic rooms or use a dehumidifier.

Opening your windows

It’s so tempting to throw open a window whenever we can in North Texas. But for those with seasonal allergies, an open window is an invitation for pollen to come inside and settle into soft materials such as floor and window coverings, bedding and furniture.

“Pollen is distributed by wind,” says Dr. Wasserman. “Pollens that are distributed by wind are the things that really bother us because it carries in the air and lands in our noses and eyes and causes problems."

Keep pollen outside by opting for an air conditioner on hot days and keeping your house and car windows closed.

Skipping your shower

You may not see the pollen that’s accumulated on your body, hair and clothing after spending time outside, but it’s there. The only way to remove it is by tossing your clothes in the hamper and hopping in the shower.

Inviting Fido to sleep in your bed

If you bring pollen into the house, you can bet your pet does, too. Pollen and pet dander can both trigger allergy symptoms. Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may want to keep your furry friends out of your bedroom altogether. Frequently bathing and grooming your pets may also help.

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