Allergies or other illnesses? UT Health San Antonio doctor breaks down the symptoms

Dr. Edward Brooks with UT Health San Antonio joined Leading SA Sunday

SAN ANTONIO – If you have seasonal allergies, you know that they have not been kind lately in the San Antonio area. But, how do you know when it’s allergies or another illness?

Dr. Edward Brooks with UT Health San Antonio joined Leading SA Sunday to discuss what distinguishes allergy symptoms from a possibly worse illness.

“Colds usually come and go, you know, within a week or two and allergies tend to last for much longer. The term ‘hay fever’ is kind of a misnomer because allergy doesn’t give you fever. So if you have a fever, most likely you’ve got an infection. And finally, the other symptoms that colds and infection give you, you know, muscle aches and pains or stomach upset. Allergies don’t typically do that,” Brooks said.

Brooks explained there are different ways to find out what you are allergic to.

“We do allergy testing. There’s the skin testing as well as blood testing is fairly accurate, but it has, you know, it’s not 100%. Pollen allergies again, we use the seasonality. So if you’re miserable in December, around the holidays and through January, it’s most likely mountain cedar. And in the last two months, if you’re really miserable, it can be oak with all the other trees pollinating at this time. So it’s one of the trees, and that’s where the testing really helps us distinguish. In the fall and summer, we have weeds and grasses is not as discrete, but ragweed very discreet in the fall. So those kinds of tips helps us a lot. Mold is the hardest because mold comes and goes all year long,” Brooks said.

While some may choose homegrown ways to fight allergy symptoms, like natural medicines or even local honey, Dr. Brooks says that may not help.

Well, the problem with both of those are honey. I don’t know. There’s been really a know controlled clinical trial to study this, but there’s really very little of the pollen proteins. That’s what you’re allergic to in the honey. And if you ate bee pollen, maybe that might, you know, increase it. But the honey is mainly sugar. You know, it’s just sweet. So there’s not much in there. The other thing is that bees, as you see in the picture, are collecting pollen from flowering plants, and that’s how they get pollinated. Well, that turns out what we’re allergic to are those things that pollinate through the air, so it flies through the air and hits us in the nose. The flowers don’t put out their pollen like that. They need the bees to pollinate them. So it’s really a different family of plants that they’re pollinating than what we’re allergic to,” Dr. Edward Brooks said.

A recent ranking by AAFA shows San Antonio is one of the worst cities in the country for allergies.

“I’m going to just have to blame it on the mountain cedar because it is very unique. It pollinators in the dead of winter when most cities really get a break from the pollinating. And it turns out that mountain cedar puts out tons of pollen. So it’s like our worst time of year, you know, during the holidays. So that probably goes a long way to giving us, you know, that reputation,” Dr. Brooks said.

You can watch the full Leading SA interview with Dr. Brooks in the video player above.


About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.