Sudden Rise in Allergies and Asthma After Major Storm

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Houston allergist discusses the reason for a recent surge in allergy and asthma problems after Hurricane Ike and provides helpful tips for staying healthy after the storm.

Storms in general can worsen allergies and asthma because increased winds mobilize mold spores and pollens and send them flying through the air. But imagine sustained hurricane force winds of up to 110 mph and one can see why so many people are having problems

Although Hurricane Ike has already wreaked havoc through southern Texas, the final monetary and life-impairing impact of this devastating hurricane has yet to be determined. It may be months before Galveston, Houston, and surrounding communities know what the true toll of the storm will be.

Hurricane Ike has brought more than destruction to coastal Texas; it has stirred up allergies or asthma for many Houstonians. Joseph R. Perez, M.D., an allergy and asthma specialist in Sugar Land, Texas ( http://www.aachou.com ), has seen a influx of patients into his office after Hurricane Ike. "Storms in general can worsen allergies and asthma because increased winds mobilize mold spores and pollens and send them flying through the air. But imagine sustained hurricane force winds of up to 110 mph and one can see why so many people are having problems," says Dr. Perez.

Many in Houston and the surrounding communities are still without power. This leaves many allergy sufferers no other option than to open their windows to allow cooler air into the house. "By opening windows and doors in the home, outdoor allergens are now suddenly indoor allergens. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike has coincided with the start of autumn allergy season, so weeds and some grasses have already began pollinating--which only adds to the allergy mayhem," says Dr. Perez.

Homeowners are also struggling with a rise in indoor mold resulting from water damage from the hurricane. Water from flooding and leaking roofs provides the necessary moisture for mold growth. Additionally, the warmer climate of Texas during this time of year encourages this unwanted growth. Dr. Perez notes interior mold growth can adversely affect both allergic and non-allergic people alike. And that identification of mold problems in the home and remediation, if necessary, can be an important step in staying healthy.

For those with allergy and asthma symptoms after a major storm, such as Hurricane Ike, Dr. Perez recommends following your physician's action plan. If you do not have a defined plan, then contact your local physician's office for an appointment. As some asthma treatments require electricity to run the machines, delay in starting these treatments due to power outages can have serious and sometimes life-threatening consequences, according to Dr. Perez. Therefore, immediate contact with a health care provider is suggested.

Here are some helpful tips to help manage allergy problems after a storm:

1. Avoid opening windows and doors which may allow outdoor allergens into the home or car. If electrical power is lost at home, spend time in a shopping mall, office building, recreational center, library, or grocery store where the air tends to be more allergen- friendly.

2. Engage the recycle option of the air conditioner in your car and change the cabin filter regularly.

3. Change your home air conditioner/furnace filters regularly.

4. Plan outdoor activities to avoid spending time outside on windy days or during early morning hours when pollen and mold spore counts are higher.

5. Have fallen debris from trees, such as leaves and branches, removed from the yard to reduce local environmental mold growth.

6. Follow your physician's medical treatment plan and notify your physician immediately if symptoms worsen or do not improve.

For more information about allergies, asthma, and other allergic problems visit http://www.aachou.com

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