AUSTIN, Texas — The oak pollen count is currently as high as Austin has seen it so far this season. So what is this substance that is making eyes itchy, noses runny and throats scratchy?
Oak pollen is a powdery substance from the male component meant to go to the female component to form acorns. The end goal is to create more oak trees from these acorns.
Bill Howland is an allergist for the Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin. He said if you're allergic to any oak pollen, you're allergic to all species of oak pollen.
"In allergy, we talk about avoiding," Howland said. "You want to try not to get the pollen in your nose and eyes. Well that means staying indoors in a beautiful time of the year, so that's just not practical."
The count is so high right now because of the part on oak trees known as catkins.
"What's been happening over the last several weeks is the oaks first got little buds and then they got little tiny leaves out," Howland said. "Now they have these little things that dangle down that are called catkins. That's what contains the pollen."
These flower clusters have started to hang down from Austin oak trees the past couple weeks, allowing the pollen to start getting in the air and all over cars as well.
"When the catkins hang down and the air conditions are correct, the pollen flies through the air because the whole plan is to get this pollen to another tree," Howland said.
The symptoms can be wide-ranging but all connected to someone's allergies. It causes people to have itchy eyes and also sneeze along with many other problems.
"One of the main chemicals in there is histamine, which is why there's a lot of itching with allergies and why antihistamines are very helpful for allergic conditions," Howland said. "The more you rub your eyes, the worst they feel."
So if you have these conditions, Howland said it's best to go with eye drops or nasal sprays, as these work much quicker and more effectively than pills.
"An antihistamine eye drop and a nasal spray will make your eyes and nose better in five to 10 minutes for up to 12 hours," Howland said.