Our state is a hot spot for sniffles and sneezes.
We all know Texas is big. Almost three United Kingdoms or more than six Icelands could fit inside the Lone Star State. Unfortunately, Texas is also a huge hot spot for allergy sufferers. In its report released in spring of this year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) listed McAllen as the No. 1 most challenging place to live in the entire nation for spring allergies, and San Antonio ranked fifth. Austin, Waco, and Dallas are not far behind.
So what makes Texas so bad for allergies? The short, simple answer is the state’s temperate climate. Most states have to endure regular freezing temperatures that halt pollen from spreading in the air. Plants in Texas, however, endure only brief freezes, if any at all, and this situation allows them to pollinate the year round, even in winter.
The bad news is that these year-round allergens are not going away, but the good news is that there are many ways you and your physician can deal with them. Here are some of the most common allergens found across Texas.
To minimize your exposure to airborne allergens, especially in the spring, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends the following.
• Limit your outdoor activities.
• Keep your windows closed and use
central air conditioning.
• Wear sunglasses outdoors.
• Wear a hat to cover your hair.
• Take a shower and wash your hair to
remove pollen from your skin and hair.
• Change and wash clothes worn during
• Dry your clothes in a dryer, not outdoors.
• Wipe pets off with a towel before they
• Wash your bedding in hot soapy water
once a week.
• Rinse the inside of your nose with a
nasal solution to remove the pollens
In addition to these precautionary steps, many over-the-counter remedies are available. These include antihistamine tablets (Allegra, Zyrtec) and those containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D). But be careful with decongestant sprays as these can become addictive.
If your allergies become extreme, consider seeing an allergist, and make sure that the physician has been certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology Specialists.
Knowing your allergies.
In a bit of anatomical irony, the tendency to become allergic to anything is carried in your genes. In addition to the usual antibodies called Immunoglobulin G, which we all have, an allergic person has extra antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IGE), and these special antibodies cause your allergic reaction.
Attempting to defend against an allergen, your body dispatches an army of IGE antibodies to destroy it. But instead of destroying the allergen, the IGE antibodies actually join up with it, forming complexes. These complexes, in turn, release the chemical histamine, and the usual symptoms begin, including large amounts of mucus, the expansion of tiny capillaries leading to a stuffy nose and headaches, and the sneezing, watery eyes, and sore throat that are usually part of an allergic reaction.
In the spring, oak pollen spreads throughout many areas of the state, leaving a yellow residue on just about anything that’s outdoors. Also, pollen from elm, pecan, pine, poplar, and hickory trees contribute to the usual allergy symptoms of sneezing, sore throat, watery eyes, congestion, lethargy, or some combination of all these.
Bermuda, Perennial Rye, and Nodding Fescue are among the common grasses in Texas that can produce the usual allergy symptoms.
Cottonwood In parts of Texas in the late spring, the air can become clogged with “cotton” from these trees. Technically it’s not pollen, but it can trigger allergic reactions, and it might also clog your air conditioning system, preventing fresh air from flowing through your home.
Ragweed typically peaks in the late summer and early fall. It’s a small, inconspicuous plant easily overlooked, often making allergy sufferers think their problems are coming from other plants and trees.
Unfortunately, mild Texas winters offer no respite from this allergy culprit. Mountain Cedar thrives in cool weather, releasing clouds of pollen into the air. In addition to the usual allergy symptoms, some may respond to Mountain Cedar pollen with flu-like symptoms including fatigue, severe headaches, and body aches.