AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) -- As Texans look forward to February's festivities from the Super Bowl and Daytona 500 to Valentine's Day, some are also starting to feel the first tingles of the upcoming allergy season.
However, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when allergy season begins, especially in Texas. It may depend not only on the climate, but also on the region and the specific type of allergy the questioner may be referring to. Because of this, someone with a cedar allergy in San Antonio may experience their allergy season months apart from someone in Cactus who is sensitive to ragweed pollen.
Here's an overview of common allergens throughout the Texas Panhandle, when they tend to rear their heads, and how to be prepared no matter when allergy season falls.
How do allergies occur?
Allergies are physiological reactions,according to the BSA Health System in Amarillo, which happen when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance (an allergen) that someone has inhaled, touched, or eaten. When the immune system reacts to an allergen in the skin, eyes, stomach, nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs, people can experience classic allergy symptoms, from itchy eyes to rashes and sneezing.
While much of the United States tends to see a lull in allergies during the winter due to cooler air, several areas of Texas have been ranked by various health websites as some of the worst for common allergies. Texas' milder climate, along with strong winds and plant life, have contributed to at least one allergy season that lasts most of the year. Ragweed, cedar, and grass pollen can float in the Texas air to some extent nearly year-round, and there are different types of mold that make allergies worse in both the driest and wettest parts of the state.
Allergens in the High Plains
Across the state of Texas, as noted on numerous health andallergy predictions,the most common allergens include ragweed pollen, cedar pollen, grass pollen, and mold. However, the Texas Panhandle also shares several common allergens with New Mexico.
According to sources such as Allergy Forecasters, the New Mexico Department of Health, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, common year-round allergens in the High Plains include:
- Juniper (cedar) trees can start shedding pollen as early as December and tend to peak in March or April, making them a frequent allergen all winter long in the high plains
- Elms tend to shed pollen through flowers and fruit and can start shedding around January, peaking in March or April.
- Mulberry trees tend to be big pollinators and start their season between mid-February and mid-April, which means they tend to become a major allergen in early spring.
- “Cool season” grasses often begin to flower and shed pollen once temperatures rise above freezing, including Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. During the milder winters in the Texas Panhandle, this can mean that these grasses can start to shed pollen in December or January.
Spring / summer
- Poplars and ash trees are common in the High Plains and tend to shed pollen during most of the spring and summer months.
- Texas' official state tree, the pecan, tends to pollinate around March and May.
- Oaks tend to start their season in late March or early April and usually last through May.
- Ragweed and other weed pollens tend to be more prevalent in the summer and early fall, peaking around August in a typical year.
- Mugwort tends to peak in August and September, although its season can extend from July to the end of October. Often confused with tumbleweeds, but seems less common in Texas than New Mexico.
- Tumbleweeds, not to be confused with mugwort, are one of the most common allergens during summer and fall in the High Plains.
- A wide variety of grasses also shed pollen during the summer and fall in the High Plains, including common "warm season" grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysia grass, and buffalo grass.
- Mold tends to spread easily indoors and in temperate climates, which means it can become as much of a problem in the fall and winter in Texas as it is in the spring and summer. Additionally, mold spores can be hardy enough to thrive in harsh, dry conditions, making them a major allergen in the steppe climate of the High Plains, as well as in the wetter areas of the state.
- Dust and dander can also be significant year-round allergens in the High Plains, spreading outdoors through high winds or indoors and covering furniture and bedding. This makes both an issue, whether the High Plains are experiencing a muddy winter or a lighter dry spring and summer.
How to Deal with Any 'Allergy Season'
According to sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Health Sciences of New Mexico, there are several strategies people can adopt to protect themselves against pollen and deal with the effects of allergies when they occur. , including:
- Regularly check local forecasts for information on pollen counts and air quality, and plan to spend less time outdoors when levels are high.
- Take prescription allergy and asthma medications as prescribed by healthcare professionals.
- Avoid touching eyes and face outside, and wash and change clothes inside to remove pollen buildup on skin and fabric.
- Keep windows and doors closed during pollen seasons and, if possible, use high-efficiency air filters for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
- Using pain relievers and over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, and nasal cleansers such as neti pots to help clear your sinuses and treat symptoms.
Working together with healthcare professionals to identify allergy triggers and create an action plan can help minimize the impact of any “allergy season,” no matter where you are in Texas or what day of the year it is.
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