Ravion Shepherd could hear sniffles around Tarrant County College, a sure sign that the allergy season is in full bloom.
As much as Shepherd and her classmates want to avoid allergies, living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area makes it hard. DFW was recently ranked as the second-worst place to live for people with pollen allergies, according to Allergy Capitals 2023 Full Report.
To determine the ratings, Allergy Capitals looked at pollen scores, over-the-counter allergy use and number of board-certified allergists and immunologists in the nation’s 100 most populated metro areas.
DFW had the greatest number of days with high pollen counts from January through May 2022, according to Allergy Capitals. Allergy season is often limited to spring in most states because of the colder winter season. Because Texas typically has a dry winter, plants can pollinate throughout the year.
Among the worst culprits is mountain cedar, which blows in from Central Texas and makes allergy sufferers miserable in DFW from December into March.
Oak, hackberry and maple trees unleash pollen in the spring, as do blooming wildflowers. Wildflowers produce a large amount of pollen that is light enough to travel on a breeze, said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Director of Horticulture. Pollen from trees and grasses take advantage of stronger winds, she said.
“Sometimes this pollen makes trouble by ending up in our noses and eyes,” Delong-Amaya said.
Common allergy symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, red and itchy eyes and congestion.
Dealing with allergies
Dr. Susan R. Bailey, an allergy and immunology specialist, said there are numerous ways to deal with allergies.
- Take medications – oral and nasal – at the beginning of allergy season
- For more severe cases, get allergy shots
- Avoid areas with high pollen
- Shower after coming in for the day to remove pollen
Another important thing to do is close windows and get an air purifier to clean the air, Bailey said.
Taking medication or shots for allergies is more practical than avoiding pollen and other irritants, Bailey said
“Avoiding what you’re allergic to is much different when talking about a cat or a dog than avoiding air,” she said, jokingly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends checking local forecasts to plan to spend less time outside when there are high pollen counts where you live and to change clothing after being outdoors.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency also suggests choosing an air purifier with a high filter rating to fight against pollen and other types of pollutants, such as dust and tobacco smoke.
Medications vs. shots
Allergy medications are available as nasal sprays, and pills such as Zyrtec and Claritin, and eye drops as well as other options. Some treatment is used for quick relief, while others are more for extended periods of time.
“The bottom line is that allergy medicines work best as preventives rather than waiting until you’re absolutely miserable,” Bailey said.
A more permanent solution is taking an allergy shot, Bailey said.
Allergy shots are given every three to five years to stop or reduce allergy attacks. Each shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance that triggers the patient’s allergic reactions.
The shot helps build up people’s immune systems so that allergy symptoms fade away over time.
Dealing with allergies comes down to one thing for Bailey — awareness.
“It’s important for people to be aware that if they have allergies, they need to treat them and see a specialist if they can’t manage on their own,” Bailey said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.