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Allergens, irritants causing symptoms for ACL fest-goers

A lack of rain has caused more irritants to drift through the air at Zilker Park this year.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Limits Music Festival brings live music and community to Zilker Park, but it also brings sneezes, watery eyes and scratchy throats.

ACL can be a nightmare for allergy sufferers, particularly for people allergic to weeds. But even people who don't usually suffer from allergies are experiencing similar symptoms.

"It's the irritants," Dr. John Villacis, a physician and allergist at Austin Diagnostic Clinic, said. "Irritants are primarily dust, the dust that gets kicked up, the dirt that gets kicked up, the small little particles from the ground that get kicked up. All those things can cause an irritation."

It has been more than a month since there has been any measurable rain at Camp Mabry, which is making Zilker Park dry and increasing the allergens and irritants in the air. That kind of condition can lead to allergy-like symptoms. Villacis said people exposed to those irritants for several days may feel the effects in the days after the bands have packed up and left town.

"If you breathe that in for two to three days, you're going to have congestion, runny nose, sneezing, post-nasal drip," he said. "It's your body's way of trying to wash all that stuff away."

Rain and humidity oftentimes help alleviate the possibility of symptoms. However, rain may be coming too late for some people who are already experiencing symptoms. The KVUE Weather Team is forecasting chances of rain late Sunday night, with some models indicating showers after the final act of ACL.

Ahead of Weekend 2 of ACL, Villacis said people can start preparing now to prevent symptoms. He advised starting an over-the-counter nasal spray days before you head down to the festival.

If that's too late, he suggested bringing a small bottle of nasal spray with you. ACL does not have nasal spray listed as a prohibited item on its website.

"Every couple of hours you can squirt that and help irrigate the nasal passages," he said. "Helps wash away the particles that get built up over time. As simple as it sounds, it makes a big difference for a lot of folks."

Villacis said facial coverings, like a mask or bandana, can also help block particles.

People with asthma were also advised to use their inhaler earlier and to bring it with them to the festival.

October is also the beginning of flu season. Flu and allergies share sneezing and congestion symptoms, but the one main distinction for flu is symptoms of infection.

"When you are having an infection, it is more fever; chills; thick, green mucus from the nasal passages; and muscle aches- those are more in the realm of infection processes than an allergic process," Villacis said. "Allergic process is what I call the four doors of allergy: itchy, runny, drippy, sneezy. Those are usually more allergy-related."

Villacis' final piece of advice: see a doctor or a specialist if symptoms last more than a week.


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