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What are the Most Common Desert Allergens in Arizona?

What are the Most Common Desert Allergens in Arizona?

It’s estimated that allergies affect at least 30 percent of the U.S. population, which translates to roughly 50 million people. If you are one of those millions, you know how uncomfortable, miserable, and downright dangerous allergies can potentially be.

Updated June 2019

Whether it’s hay fever, asthma, or more dangerous allergies that can lead to anaphylaxis, it’s important to work with your doctor or allergist to keep your symptoms managed and under control. This holds true no matter where you live; some people erroneously believe that living in a desert climate means they will no longer suffer from allergies. This may be true for a short time, but if you have had allergies previously, you will risk developing them again in your new home to potential allergens found there.

So what are allergies?

In short, allergies are an over-reaction of your Deadly-Allergies-and-Anaphylaxis Phoenix body’s immune system to otherwise-innocuous items and components found in the environment. Normally, your body’s immune system protects you against infection by harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other harmful invaders by creating antibodies to destroy them. An allergy occurs when your body mistakes a harmless material for a harmful invader and develops antibodies against it. This is why you might sneeze, have itchy eyes, have sinus pain, or have more severe symptoms when coming into contact with an allergen.

So does moving to Phoenix help alleviate allergies?

Yes and no. If your allergies are triggered by air pollution or other components that are isolated to selected geographic areas, you can relocate and drastically improve your allergy symptoms. However, many people have moved from the city or the suburbs to a rural or desert location, only to find their allergies reappear within a few years.

The reason why makes sense; a person who has developed allergies already has an immune system that is prone to developing sensitivities to innocuous materials. When you relocate, all you’re doing is removing the previously-offending materials from your environment; you’re not treating the underlying allergies. This leaves your immune system vulnerable to sensitizing itself to an entirely new allergen.

For example, if you move to the desert to escape an allergy to tree pollen, you may be fine for a few years before your immune system becomes sensitized to grass pollen or the pollen from a different tree species.

Before moving house, speak with your doctor or allergist about your specific allergies and treatments, and you should also ask for a referral to a well-known allergist in the area you are relocating to so you can continue with your existing allergy shots and treatments you might be undergoing.

If you’re still planning to relocate to the desert – for example, you’re retiring and want to live in one of the many retirement communities that have sprung up in our beautiful desert state- here are some examples of the most common allergens you might run into in the desert.

1. Dust and Pollution Allergies

You can’t escape dust and pollution, no matter where you move to. Dust can be composed of anything, including skin cells, mold spores, grains of pollen, broken-down bits of rock and soil, and grains of sand. It can also include the waste products of animals or insects such as dust mites. The specific composition of dust may change depending on the area you relocate to, but you won’t be able to totally escape it. If you have an allergy to dust, your immune system might change to react to the dust of your new location, leaving you miserable all over again.

2. Mold Allergies

Many people believe molds are only a problem in cooler climates with lots of rain, but they can also exist in dry climates as well. One dangerous example of this is the mold that causes valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis; it’s a mold commonly found in the soils of Arizona, California, and other parts of the southwest that can lie dormant in dry weather and be kicked up when it rains or when the ground is otherwise disturbed. Valley fever aside, a lot of molds exist in desert soil and flourish during the rainy season.

3. Animal Dander

Where there are animals, there will continue to be animal dander. Dander isn’t just the fur of animals, it’s also the skin cells and saliva proteins that are shed when an animal sheds or grooms itself. This is why cat dander allergies can be such a nightmare; because cats groom themselves so fastidiously, they leave lots of saliva proteins behind that can trigger allergic reactions.

4. Pollen

Wherever there are plants, there will likely be pollen. Pollen is how plants and trees reproduce, it’s why they release so much of it during the spring and summer months.

September officially starts the allergy season here in Phoenix but this year has not been kind to allergy sufferers.   If you have been visiting or living here throughout the last few months, and you suffer from allergies, you likely have felt miserable!   Due to the rain and warmer winter, the plants have been in full bloom earlier and longer which is causing tons of pollen!

And if you have not suffered before from allergies but this year, noticed itchy eyes, filled sinuses, sinus headaches, wheezing… you should consider getting a PCP referral to a board-certified allergist in order to get comprehensive allergy testing which tests for our native desert plants as well as other allergens.

As we stated above, when you relocate to new places, all the sudden you may experience allergies!   As examples, if you move from Arizona due to a ragweed allergy, for example, you might find yourself eventually becoming allergic to the pollen released by grass in your new location. Or you already have an allergy to tree pollens, moved to the desert, but now might get an allergy to ragweed or to the trees in your new Phoenix home as you grow more acclimated to our environment.

5. Insects

There are two ways people can develop allergies to insects. The first (and best known) is by developing an allergy to insect venoms such as bee or wasp stings. This can lead to Anaphylaxis, which can rapidly be fatal if not treated in time. The second way to develop allergies is by developing sensitivity to proteins left by an insect; these can be left in their saliva, droppings, or other things they come into contact with.

Most people think of dust mite allergies, but you can also develop sensitivities to kissing bugs, cockroaches, mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects. Some insects can also contribute to you developing allergies to unrelated things. For example, if you are bitten by a lone star tick, you risk developing an allergy to meat due to a protein that can be transmitted via the tick’s saliva.

Arizona Allergies Q&A

1) Are there allergies in Arizona?

Unfortunately, allergies are an unpleasant reality regardless of where you live. In recent years, there’s a significant increase in the number of sufferers across the country, and Arizona is no exception.  We have experienced many days this spring with a high pollen count which has made this spring one of the worst for allergy sufferers.

2) But, can you really have allergies in the desert?

The hot, dry climate of the desert may not be helpful to allergens that benefit from a more humid environment. However, other allergenic substances, such as pollen and insect venom, are definitely present in the drier regions of the country.

3) What causes allergies in Arizona?

Apart from the allergens mentioned above, allergies in Arizona are often caused by various types of pollen found in trees indigenous to the area. Ash, elm mulberry, sycamore, mesquite, as well as cottonwood and juniper, are frequently responsible for the increased pollen counts that give so much trouble to hay fever sufferers. Other highly allergenic plants include the very common bermuda grass, and various species of weed, such as the giant ragweed.

4) Does Arizona have an allergy season?

While spring is often thought as the worse time of the year for people with allergies, the fall allergy season in Arizona can also be quite troublesome. The increase in rainfall encourages the growth of several native species of grass and weeds. What’s more, plants produce pollen throughout the year and the blooming season for the state’s most common species varies considerably. For instance, junipers bloom in January while ash and cottonwood do so from January to February.

5) How can I reduce my pollen exposure?

On days with high pollen counts, try to stay indoors as much as possible. Keep your windows shut and use the air conditioning. If you have to do any gardening or yard work, consider wearing a mask. If you take any allergy medication, do so before you venture outside. It will prevent the onset of your symptoms, or, at least, reduce them significantly. As soon as you get home, shower and change your clothes. This will keep a great deal of pollen out of your house.

Whether you are new to Phoenix or you have lived here for some time, our specialty allergy doctors know how difficult it can be to live with allergies. Our clinics can assist you with allergy testing, allergy treatments, and any other information in order to keep your allergies in check. Call or visit our website for more information or to schedule an appointment. Remember that we have offices all throughout the Valley- Anthem, Avondale, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale!

Further Reading

Desert Plants Causing Havoc for Arizona Allergy Sufferers“. allergyarizona.net, Adult and Pediatric Allergy Associates, P.C., 13 Feb. 2019, allergyarizona.net/desert-plants-causing-havoc-for-arizona-allergy-suffers/.

High Desert Asthma and Allergies-Advice from Asthma Specialists“. allergyarizona.net, Adult and Pediatric Allergy Associates, P.C., 21 Nov. 2016, allergyarizona.net/high-desert-asthma-and-allergies-advice-from-asthma-specialists/.

5 Tips for Preventing Hay Fever in Arizona“. allergyarizona.net, Adult and Pediatric Allergy Associates, P.C., 15 Nov. 2018, allergyarizona.net/tips-for-preventing-hay-fever-in-arizona/.

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Suffering from Sinus Issues Caused by Allergies?

Suffering from Sinus Issues Caused by Allergies?

If you are plagued by uncomfortable sinus symptoms like congestion, runny nose, sinus pressure or pain, you know that getting relief is essential. But first, you need to determine what’s causing your symptoms.

Often, people mistake allergy symptoms for a cold, and then complain of a cold that lasts for weeks. When they actually have seasonal allergies to plant pollen or other, generally airborne allergens. This might feel much like a sinus infection due to a virus or bacteria, but there are a few key differences when you have allergic rhinitis.

See also: 5 Ways to Manage Your Seasonal Allergies Naturally

Is it Viral or is it Allergies?

The common symptoms that you may have with either a viral-induced sinus infection or allergic rhinitis include sinus pressure and congestion and a runny nose, but when you are experiencing an allergic reaction, you may also have itchy watering eyes, which almost never occur with a sinus infection caused by a virus. Another way to identify sinus infection is if you are producing thick green nasal discharge.

Allergy symptoms are triggered by exposure to the allergens to which you are sensitive, so they can occur year-round, if you are reacting to pet dander, dust mites or air pollution, or seasonally if you have pollen, mold and fungi allergies. Paying attention to the timing of your symptoms will give you a clue as to their origin, but we can pinpoint your allergies with allergy testing.

Knowing exactly what you are allergic to will help you manage symptoms by avoiding allergens, where possible, or taking the appropriate medications.

Pediatric Allergies and Sinus Symptoms

Children are more susceptible to viruses, because they haven’t yet acquired immunities and have usually less than satisfactory personal hygiene habits. While it may seem like your little ones are constantly sniffling, don’t assume it’s just a cold. Untreated allergic sinus symptoms can escalate into dangerous breathing issues in children whose smaller airways can more easily become congested.

Our pediatric allergy doctors can determine if your child’s symptoms are due to an allergic reaction or something else and then recommend treatments that will be effective, personalized to your child’s needs. Treatments that we may propose include:

  • Avoidance of the allergen, which can be relatively easy in some cases (if they are allergic to horses or camels), but nearly impossible in others, such as dust mite, fungal or air pollutant allergies
  • Medication, including over the counter (OTC) or prescription antihistamines and corticosteroids
  • Immunotherapy or desensitization therapies

You don’t have to resign yourself (or your children) to the sneezing and sniffling, sinus pressure and congestion of sinus issues caused by allergies, help is available! Contact us today at 602-242-4592 or book an appointment online to find out how we can help.

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Desert Plants Causing Havoc for Arizona Allergy Suffers

Desert Plants Causing Havoc for Arizona Allergy Suffers

While many people move to a desert area to find relief from their allergies, a desert environment might actually trigger allergies. In fact, at least a third of those who live in the Phoenix area experience some level of what is commonly known as “hay fever.” Hay fever means your body is reacting to pollens or mold of some type, and these reactions can take the form of sneezing, watery eyes and nose, congestion or itchiness.

Ragweed Allergies PhoenixRagweed is one of the most common allergy-inducing plants across the United States and Phoenix has over a dozen native species of ragweed.

Ragweed is a perennial weed (in other words- it will affect allergy sufferers who have problems with it YEAR-ROUND)! Contact with the ragweed pollen can lead to coughing, wheezing, swollen eyelids, itchy eyes, itchy throat and ears, sneezing, hives and other rashes.

Other trees in the state of Arizona which could potentially lead to Hay fever include:

  • Russian Thistle is a tumbleweed which many people are sensitive to, causing skin rashes and other allergic reactions following exposure
  • African Sumac is a tree which can cause unrelenting sneezing among many people in the area.
  • Feather Palm and Desert Fan Palm—like many palm trees, both the feather palm and the desert fan palm shed an immense amount of pollen which can lead to serious allergy symptoms.
  • Cottonwood tree allergies are not as common as you might think with all the cottony fluff which falls from the trees each year, however those who are allergic to cottonwoods are typically very allergic—and may also be allergic to willows as well.
  • Desert Broom grows in disturbed soil; the cotton-like seed plumes fly away in the wind, causing allergies among many.
  • Arizona Sycamore is a tree which is typically considered a moderate allergen, although some people will react more strongly to the sycamore pollens.
  • Chinese Elm allergies are caused by the pollen which is carried by the wind in the fall months. Chinese elm pollen is considered a moderate allergen.
  • Arizona Ash will typically cause allergic reactions among those who are also sensitive to Olive tree pollen.
  • Arizona Sycamore trees flower between March and June, and are often seen in Arizona parks and streets. Similar to the California Sycamore, the Arizona Sycamore causes allergic reactions among some residents.
  • Hackberry can cause allergic reactions among those who are close in proximity and who have continued exposure. While Hackberry is in the same family as elm (very allergenic), it does not cause the extreme level of allergies among most people.
  • Juniper trees are a common source of allergies due to the pollen they create and those with Juniper allergies are also likely to be allergic to Cedar and Cypress tree pollen.
  • Mesquite is a serious offender in the southwest, producing considerable levels of airborne pollen. Those with Mesquite allergies may suffer from nasal inflammation, nasal congestion, sneezing, scratchy throats, contact dermatitis and even asthma.
  • Bermuda grass, while well-suited to the Arizona desert, is a more significant allergen than most other grasses, causing itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing.

And other common allergens found in Phoenix

Because many parts of Arizona are dry, receiving little rain, dust is a given. During certain times, especially during our monsoon season (usually June through August),Phoenix area residents experience severe dust storms and dust devils, and they are on the rise.

pollen allergies

For those with allergies, desert dust is never good news, as it has an effect on respiratory systems, causing coughing, wheezing and watery, itchy eyes. Air pollution can also be a problem, particularly for those who live in the Phoenix metro area, which sits in a valley, allowing the pollutants to just hang around.

Contact Our Phoenix Allergy Specialists

If you’re suffering from allergies, we can help. Our allergy doctors have helped thousands of patients in Arizona breathe a little easier. You deserve to live a life that is free of allergy attacks. Find an allergy and asthma clinic near you.

We serve patients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Avondale, and Anthem. Call today at 602-242-4592, or book an appointment immediately online here!

See also related article about top allergens in the Valley:

High Desert Asthma and Allergies- Advice from Asthma Specialists

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EpiPen Update! Have you heard about AUVI-Q?

EpiPen Update! Have you heard about AUVI-Q?

December’s EpiPen Update for children allergies

The Epipen shortage continues to have many allergy sufferers in a panic, including parents who need to provide emergency allergy supplies to their school children. But the Epipen is not the only medicine capable of preventing anaphylactic shock (see our page here for info on what  life-threatening anaphylaxis is).

AUVI-Q is one alternative to Epipen

Walgreens has responded to the Epipen shortage by stocking up on this alternative. They’re stepping up in more ways than one. According to a recent press release, Walgreens will be providing this vital medication free of charge to anyone who has an eligible insurance plan. This even applies to high-deductible plans which historically do not cover very much. This does not include any AHCCCS plans. Those who don’t have insurance may receive assistance obtaining AUVI-Q at an affordable cost by taking advantage of kaléo’s patient assistant program. The kaléo company manufactures AUVI-Q.

AUVI-Q is pretty similar to an Epipen. It's smaller, which makes it easier to carry.

  • AUVI-Q is pretty similar to an Epipen. It’s smaller, which makes it easier to carry. If you need to administer a dose you place it against your thigh and hold it in place for 5 seconds. It has a fully retractable needle, a safety measure intended to keep a needle from getting embedded in the leg. In this regard, it may be an even safer alternative for kids than the Epipen.
  • AUVI-Q has another innovation: verbal instructions. As soon as you remove the plastic case on the outside in preparation to use the device you’ll hear the instructions playing. This can be nice if you’re trying to administer the injection to yourself. You won’t have to worry that you’ve forgotten something while you’re busy struggling to breathe.
  • The medication inside the AUVI-Q device is the same as the Epipen: epinephrine. The only real difference is in the delivery method. But the delivery method is enough to mean pharmacists can’t just swap out the two devices. You will need to stop by our office to get a prescription for AUVI-Q if you want to take advantage of this generous offer.

Dr. Habib’s and Dr Alasaly’s thoughts:

There are very few instances where we wouldn’t approve such a change. If you’re struggling to obtain life-saving epinephrine please give our offices a call to make the switch today. But before we ever truly endorse or recommend a medicine for you or your child, you should meet with us in person in order to screen you to make sure you don’t have any of the medical conditions or drug interactions which might make AUVI-Q an unsafe alternative

About Our Allergy Clinic:

For more information about our pediatric and adult allergy services, you can book at any of our 5 allergy and asthma clinics in the Phoenix Metro area or on our  ZocDoc site  for an appointment

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2018 Allergy and Asthma Check up Season before Fall Arrives

2018 Allergy and Asthma Check up Season before Fall Arrives

Phoenix Allergies are on the Rise Right Now

With summer heat moving on and our Arizona “cool” fall is approaching, another allergy season is soon be upon us!

Unfortunately, spring is not the only time when asthma and allergies are on the rise. Our late summer rain in July and August means more grasses and weeds and, consequently, an increased pollen count this fall and winter. Moreover, temperature inversions contribute to air pollution, another factor that affects allergies like the common hay fever. At the same time, there’s an increase in asthma symptoms that coincides with our children going back to school.

Allergies and asthma have undoubtedly become more prevalent during the last few years. Major cities are turning into allergy hot spots, and Phoenix is no exception. In fact, in extensive study of allergies across the country in 2011, Phoenix ranked the second worst city for allergen sensitizations, right after Dallas. The allergens examined included food, the common ragweed, house dust mites, mold, and pets.

Why an Allergy and Asthma Check Up is so Important Now

When it comes to allergies and asthma, being proactive is crucial. It’s important to remember that allergies are not static-they evolve over time and are greatly influenced by lifestyle changes and age. Nevertheless, with the right preparation, you will be able to treat your symptoms effectively or prevent them altogether in some cases.

Visiting your allergist right now will give you a chance to:

1) evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment,

2) adjust your medication if necessary, and

3) update your medical history.

Children can also benefit from a check up right as school is starting

Finally, this is a great time for first visits if you suspect you have an allergy that will trouble you as soon as allergy season hits!

How to Prepare for Your Visit to the Allergist’s Office

Before your appointment, talk to your doctor about any medication you might be taking. ALERT: Antihistamines interfere with allergy testing, so the general recommendation is to avoid them for seven days prior to testing. However, this may vary for specific medicines, so remember to follow your doctor’s specific instructions.

Psychiatric medications are another category that might affect skin tests. However, you should never stop taking your prescription without your psychiatrist’s permission. Finally, if you take beta-blockers, which might make testing riskier, your allergist will consult your cardiologist to have you stop them for a few days right before your visit.

There are no special preparations for the actual visit, however, it’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothing to make skin testing on your arm or back easier. Remember to provide your doctor with as much information as possible about changes to your symptoms, the effectiveness of your medication, or anything else relevant. Also, think about any questions you might have and prepare them beforehand. Don’t hesitate to ask for additional information or any educational materials that might be available for patients (which a good allergy specialist should provide).

What to Expect at the Allergist’s Office

Your first visit to a certified Arizona allergist will include a physical examination and communicating your complete medical history. This is a crucial step and you should try to be as thorough as possible. Remember to bring any relevant medical documents with you. Be sure to mention any childhood allergies, your current symptoms, as well as any medication you might be taking. A detailed picture of your condition will help your doctor determine which allergens may be responsible and test you specifically for them.

Allergy tests are suitable for people of all ages, including children. Skin tests are by far the most common. They are reliable, and provide fast results. Examples include the skin prick test, the intradermal, and the patch test. Blood tests are also available for investigating allergies, but these are more expensive and you will have to wait several days for your results. Nonetheless, blood testing is useful occasionally. When allergen exposure during a skin test could result in a severe reaction, when a patient suffers from a severe skin condition like eczema, or they cannot stop taking medication prior to testing, blood tests are a good alternative.

Why Repeating Your Allergy Test is Important

Your doctor may recommend retesting in some cases. If, for example, you are on medication and your symptoms return, change or worsen, or if you develop symptoms in a new season, you will most likely need to repeat your tests. Furthermore, people often develop new allergies over time, so it is necessary to identify these new triggers and pick up anything that previous tests might have missed. Another appropriate time for retesting is before beginning an immunotherapy plan. Your doctor will most likely want to check again for specific allergens before administering allergy shots.

Dealing with allergies and asthma is not just about treating the symptoms. A well-thought plan designed by you and your doctor will keep you one step ahead of your allergies. With the right preparation, you will be able to deal with this fall’s allergies and improve your quality of life significantly. So, don’t delay your appointment with your allergist this summer.

WATCH – Why allergy season gets worse every year

Sources

“Allergy and Asthma in the Southwestern United States”. allergy.peds.arizona.edu, University of Arizona, Health Sciences Center, Sept. 2012, allergy.peds.arizona.edu/southwest/advice_fall.html. Accessed 5 July 2018.

“Allergy Testing”. acaai.org, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, acaai.org/allergies/treatment/allergy-testing. Accessed 5 July 2018.

“Allergy Testing”. asthma.net, Health Union, asthma.net/diagnosis/allergy-testing/. Accessed 5 July 2018.

“Allergy Tests and Asthma”. webmd.com, Webmd, webmd.com/asthma/guide/allergy-tests-and-asthma#1. Accessed 5 July 2018.

“How often should I be retested for allergies?”. acaai.org, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/Allergy-Testing. Accessed 5 July 2018.

Nath, Ishani. “How to Prepare For Your First Visit to the Allergist”. allergicliving.com, Allergic Living, 4 May 2017, allergicliving.com/2017/05/04/how-to-prepare-for-your-first-visit-to-the-allergist/. Accessed 5 July 2018.

Quest Diagnostics Health Trends. Allergies Across America: The Largest Study of Allergy Testing in the United States, 2011 [online], questdiagnostics.com/dms/Documents/Other/2011_QD_AllergyReport.pdf. Accessed 5 July 2018.

“Will my medication affect the results of my skin test?”. acaai.org, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/Allergy-Testing. Accessed 5 July 2018.

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