The problem with pollen in The Woodlands – Woodlands Online

By: Sean K. Thompson

| Published 04/14/2022
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Typically, threats to our health and wellbeing are silent and invisible. So many pandemic-related issues, for instance, would be rendered moot if viruses appeared in a cloud of green smoke whenever we coughed or sneezed.

Two allergists discuss various options to handle the allergy season assailing us

So it’s somewhat of a pyrrhic victory that we know exactly when allergy season is among us this year; it’s unavoidable to not know there’s pollen in the air when it’s also coating your car every morning when you head out the door to work.

This season is particularly painful on the sinuses and eyes. Fortunately, weekly rains have managed to dampen the airborne qualities of the pollen for a bit; unfortunately, we’d have to endure 40 days of nonstop rain to truly get past it. Even as the skies clear, the pollen floats.

Woodlands Online talked with two allergists who tackle allergies from different viewpoints. First, we visited with Dr. Anna George. Dr. George is board certified in Pediatrics, Allergy, and Immunology. Before moving to The Woodlands in the summer of 2015, she practiced allergy and immunology in Colorado for 5 years. In Texas, Dr. George joined forces with Dr. Stephen Miles and by August 2017 their clinic was rated as the Best Of The Woodlands by the readers of the Living Magazine. That same year, her dream of opening a new location in Creekside came to fruition with The Woodlands Allergy Center.

“Allergy season is in full swing and we are seeing really high tree pollen and grass pollen counts right now,” said Dr. George. “Oak tree pollen – visible on our cars and driveways – and Bermuda grass pollen predominate. Our allergy seasons are more intense, starting sooner and lasting longer. Additionally, we have molds and dust mites present year round, worse in the hotter, humid summer months. Spring months are usually the toughest for my patients and can trigger sinus infections.”

According to Dr. George, the best way to prepare for an allergy season is to know your triggers, since the treatment is much more effective if started early. Allergy skin prick testing in an allergy office is done with small plastic tips on the forearms or back. The entire process takes less than 30 minutes.

Dr. George offers some simple steps to get some relief from the allergens. “Start treatment early and use multiple agents, such as nasal spray plus antihistamine plus sinus rinse). Take a shower and change your clothes after being outside. Do not exercise outdoors when the pollen counts are high. In general, pollen counts tend to be lower in the mornings and evenings, though there are exceptions to this.”

A more holistic approach to allergy relief is provided by The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness. We spoke with Dr. Mila McManus, founder of the institute. Dr. McManus graduated at the top of her class from the University of Texas-Houston Medical School in 2000. She then completed specialty training in Family Medicine at Christus St. Joseph in Houston, TX, and is board-certified in Family Medicine.

Dr. McManus has always had a special interest in preventive medicine, but it wasn’t until her interest in alternative and complementary therapies became personal that she decided to leave her private practice to specialize in wellness. She suffered from fatigue, weight gain, headaches, PMS symptoms, depression, anxiety, IBS, severe allergies, and decreased mental sharpness. Her goals of terminating these issues resulted in the 2004 opening of the clinic.

“My specialty now is in functional medicine, which revolves around addressing the root cause of maladies such as allergies,” she said. “I found that the traditional medicinal approach – taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs, didn’t help, or at best helped temporarily without tackling the underlying issues.”

Functional medicine, according to McManus, is designed to wean patients off of pills and shots, and instead concentrate on promoting gut health, detoxification, and diet. While she admits that it is sometimes difficult conveying to the public that this form of medicine is conventional and based in science, she also is proud of the sheer number of area residents and visitors that have benefited from her institute’s treatments.

“I have suffered from many allergies since birth, and also dealt with mild asthma, having to take sinus shots from age 5, food allergies, and more,” she said. “While I was in medical school, I was on a regimen of three different allergy medications and I still suffered.”

Delving into the treatments that functional medicine offered, she was able to get many of her issues under control in a manner of weeks.

“A primary relief from airborne allergens comes in the form of allergy drops – not shots – that have actually legally replaced allergy shots in the United Kingdom. Allergy shots over there have been outright banned.”

Dr. McManus promotes the use of natural remedies for relief from allergies, including saline rinses, neti pots, sprays, and supplements.

As allergy season progresses and we count the days until our cars don’t look like off-road mudders again, Woodlands Online encourages allergy sufferers to check out all avenues of relief and find the ones that best work for them.