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 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.
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.
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.
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!
“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/.
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 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.
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
Does holding a fluffy dog make you sneeze and wheeze? If you’re suffering from dreadful allergies, you may think that it’s impossible for you to enjoy the heartwarming companionship offered by adorable pets. But fear not. All hope is not lost, as you can still cuddle that charming little fluffball when you choose the right pet for you.
What Is a Hypoallergenic Pet?
Pet dander — or dead skin cells — is a common, serious trigger for allergy symptoms, and it’s present even in hairless cats and short-haired dogs. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (aafa.org/page/pet-dog-cat-allergies.aspx), around three in 10 individuals with allergies experience allergic reactions to dogs and cats, and cat allergies are more common than dog allergies.
Hypoallergenic pets refer to animals that generally produce fewer allergens, leading to lower chances of triggering your allergy symptoms. However, no dog or cat is completely non-allergic. Your immune system naturally responds to proteins found in the dander, saliva or urine of animals to shield your body from illnesses. But in the case of people with pet allergies, their immune systems are more sensitive than others and are thus more prone to react even to harmless animal proteins. Thankfully, you can still care for an animal even if you have pet allergy once you find one that doesn’t cause allergic reactions.
“What are some of the Best Hypoallergenic Animals for Your Family?”
Best Dogs for Allergy Sufferers:
If you’re looking for a dog, the American Kennel Club (akc.org/about/faq-allergies/)
Recommends breeds with a predictable, non-shedding coat that creates less dander. Here are ideal hypoallergenic canine breeds for allergy sufferers:
- Afghan Hound — Typically reserved and composed, Afghan Hounds need regular exercise and grooming. You should bathe and brush your Afghan Hound twice a week to keep pet dander at bay.
- American Hairless Terrier — American Hairless Terriers are smart, energetic dogs that are perfect for kids and teens. They also are ideal for those living in bustling cities, as they require minimal outdoor exercise and do well with a lot of indoor playtime.
- Bedlington Terriers — Regular walks and indoor play can make a Bedlington Terrier fit and happy. If you want a hypoallergenic dog with a wooly coat, this breed is for you.
- Chinese Crested — A Chinese Crested is a wonderful breed if you’re looking for a dog that sheds little to no hair. It’s an attentive and active dog that loves to spend time with its owner.
For cat lovers, the following feline breeds are considered hypoallergenic:
- Siberian Forest — Typically heavier than other cats, a Siberian Forest is strong and thick-coated. This cat breed loves to show affection and play with water.
- Balinese — Balinese cats are single-coated with less shedding. Resembling the Siamese, these cats have bright blue eyes, and they are lively, friendly and intelligent.
- Burmese — If you want an incredibly loyal feline that gives you plenty of affection, a Burmese cat is your best choice. This smart, playful, people-oriented cat is comparable to dogs.
Unknown to many, birds also produce pet dander and may trigger allergy symptoms. But if you really want a feathered companion, you can choose birds that are hypoallergenic. Parakeets, also called budgies, shed minimal dander, making them an excellent option for allergy sufferers. Other recommended hypoallergenic birds include Eclectus, Pionus, and Toucans.
Small, Hypoallergenic Animals:
Aquatic pets are perfect for allergy sufferers, as they stay in the water and require no direct contact. Just make sure you don’t dip your hand in the water to prevent potential infections associated with aquatic environments. You may also opt for a pet reptile, which neither has fur nor the proteins known to cause allergic reactions.
“How to Know If a Pet Is Hypoallergenic?”
Before getting a new pet, especially if you’re planning to adopt a rescued animal, it’s important to determine first if the animal doesn’t trigger your symptoms. To do so, trial and error may be necessary. Visit an animal shelter, a pet store or a friend who has the particular breed you like, and spend time with your chosen animal for up to an hour a few times to check for allergic reactions. If you don’t cough, wheeze or show noticeably swollen body parts, you’ve likely found a hypoallergenic pet that’s suitable for you. Keep in mind to consult your doctor first, especially if you have severe allergies or asthma, to ensure your safety.
Also, before bringing home any pet, make sure you know exactly what you’re allergic to by going to an allergist and getting allergy testing if you haven’t done so already. This helps identify substances that you may need to avoid when choosing your pet’s diet or bedding. Once you get a hypoallergenic pet, make sure to prepare a separate room for it, wash its bed frequently and groom it as needed. By taking extra time and effort, you’ll be able to have fun with your pet without worrying too much about your allergies.
Associates of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. While that number is jarring, additional statistics show that approximately one out of six Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis. The following information will describe what allergic rhinitis is, what triggers it and why consulting an allergist as opposed to your primary care physician is the best course of action to take if you believe that you may be living with allergies.
What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergy means “strange activity” in Greek. Rhinitis, also Greek in origin, literally means “condition of the nose.” Therefore, allergic rhinitis, which is also referred to as hay fever, can be defined as a condition in which irritants cause “inflammation of the nose or its mucous membrane.”
What causes allergies?
Pollen is a powdery fertilizing agent that flowering plants release in order to fertilize other plants. It helps create beautiful gardens, but pollen also makes it difficult for people with seasonal allergies to enjoy them.
Pollen, which is transported through the air, attaches itself to a person’s hair, skin and clothing. When people who are sensitive to pollen breathe in pollen-laden air, typical symptoms include “sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat and eyes and wheezing.”
Pollen and debris from an animal’s coat or feathers are two of the most common irritants that trigger allergic rhinitis symptoms. However, it is worth mentioning that pollen is not just limited to flowers. For example, certain trees, grasses, and desert plants like cacti are also pollen-heavy. Additionally, dust and chemicals from pipe, cigar and cigarette smoke are other windborne irritants, and all the above can be particularly tough on people living with allergies. This is just one reason why attempting to self-medicate with over the counter medicine is not advised.
Why do you need to see an allergist instead of your primary care physician?
Unlike general physicians, allergists are physicians who have completed additional training programs that allow them to effectively diagnose and treat asthma and allergic diseases. The following list describes some of the health issues that an allergist-immunologist treats:
. hay fever
. hives (ACAAI)
What should you expect when you visit an allergist?
An allergist-immunologist will conduct a thorough medical history and physical exam. Skin and blood tests may also be incorporated in order to determine exactly what substances are causing allergic reactions. This is typically done in an in-house testing lab. The new client visit could take up to two hours. Once the irritants have been identified, allergists will create a treatment plan that may include dietary recommendations, inoculations and other medication specifically designed for their clients’ needs.
Is there a cure for allergies?
Unfortunately, no. However, immunotherapy and specialty medicines as well as education, can greatly reduce the symptoms that people living with allergies would normally experience by attempting to self-medicate, which can be dangerous. By consulting a top Phoenix allergist, these individuals can avoid wasting time, money and possibly putting their health at risk and focus on enjoying life.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (n.d.). Retrieved from acaai.org/
Allergy | Define Allergy at Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from dictionary.com/browse/allergy
Rhinitis | Define Rhinitis at Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from dictionary.com/browse/rhinitis
American Board of Allergy and Immunology:. (n.d.). Retrieved from abai.org
Allergy Facts | AAFA.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from aafa.org/page/allergy-facts.aspx
Statistics suggest that sinusitis, a common medical condition, affects one out of every eight adults each year. Children may also suffer from this infection; however, because their sinuses are not fully developed until they are in their late teens, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish their presenting symptoms from allergies, vs. colds or viruses.
Definition of Sinusitis and Facts:
While they vary in size, shape and development, humans have four pairs of mucous lined sinuses, which are located in their cheekbones, lower forehead, between the eyes and behind the nose. When they are infected by multiplying bacteria, fungi or viruses, sinuses react to the invaders through the swelling, inflammation and irritation of their mucosal linings, which leads to blockage of normal sinus drainage. The blockage can be manifested in the following manner:
- Acute: can last up to three weeks.
- Subacute: can last anywhere from three weeks to three months.
- Chronic: typically lasts longer than three months and can also present as a series of acute episodes on top of the chronic condition over time.
Sinusitis Symptoms and How Related to Allergies:
The symptoms and complaints of sinusitis are generally specific to their
type. They can be acquired during a hospital stay or nosocomial; triggered by allergies or a cold, viral, fungal or bacterial infections; or be linked to immunosuppression problems. According to Reuler, Lucas and Kumar (1995) and Caspersen, Walter, Walsh, Rosenfeld, and Piccirillo (2015), the following is a list of selected symptoms and complaints based on the type of sinusitis.
- Acute: Facial pain and fullness, pain around the eyes, headache, cloudy, green, yellow, clear or purulent nasal discharge, decreased sense of smell and fever. Also, may be difficult to distinguish from common cold or allergies.
- Allergic: Some resources refer to an “allergic” sinusitis, which is associated with “allergic rhinitis.” This is a nasal condition that occurs when individuals have an allergic reaction to something that they breathe in. The symptoms usually resolve when the offending allergen is removed or the particular allergy season ends.
- Subacute: Complaints similar to acute presentations, but last up to three months.
- Chronic: Similar complaints as acute sinusitis with the addition of nasal obstruction or polyps, postnasal drip, halitosis and lasting longer than three months. Pain may be absent in chronic sinusitis, except for those individuals with frontal sinus infections.
- Hospital Acquired or Nosocomial: Occurs after patients are hospitalized and is contracted either through something in the hospital’s environment or staff hygiene practices or illnesses. The infections usually affect the sinuses on both sides and are frequently seen in those patients with long-term ventilator needs; nasogastric and tracheal tubes; or with nasal packing due to injury or surgical procedures on their skulls and faces.
- Immunosuppression Problems: In addition to the symptoms reported in sinusitis, opportunistic fungi and other gram-negative microorganisms may be seen in individuals with HIV or other immune deficiencies. According to Lal, there are several types of fungal sinusitis, which may be invasive or non-invasive.
Causes of Sinusitis:
According to Caspersen, et al (2015), Reuler, et al (1995) and Lal (n.d.), sinusitis is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, which are associated with respiratory illnesses, deficient immune systems, and other conditions. Acute sinusitis caused by bacteria is manifested when an individual has not improved at all after ten days of getting sick or if their condition worsens within ten days after they begin to get better. When the cause of the sinusitis is a virus, however, the individual is usually sick less than ten days and does not get worse. As for fungal sinusitis, most people in good health who have strong immune systems are not affected by the presence of fungi that they may inhale. The fungi may, however, cause infection and inflammation of the sinuses and nose in individuals with weakened immune systems. It may also occur in individuals who have been on long-term antibiotic therapy.
Sinusitis Diagnosis and Tests:
Sinusitis, in its many forms, cannot be diagnosed based on signs and symptoms alone because other conditions may mimic sinusitis. Additional information may be obtained through a physical exam and assessment; a medical history review; CT scans for severe or chronic sinusitis or complications; sinus x-rays; endoscopic sinus exams (ESM); allergies and immune functioning tests; needle aspiration and culture of sinus contents to identify the microorganisms causing the problem; or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to see where the infection has spread or if there are any growths or tumors in the sinuses or nose. Current guidelines advise health care providers to refrain from ordering expensive radiological diagnostic tests unless severe complications are suspected or if there is facial swelling or cranial nerve complications (WebMD; Potera, 2015).
Treatment and Therapy:
Following a correct diagnosis of sinusitis and before prescribing any treatments or therapies, healthcare providers must be aware of the current clinical practice guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. ENTNET’s latest directives suggest that antibiotics are not needed for viral or fungal sinus infections. Additionally, when the infection is bacterial, there should be “watchful waiting” or a seven-day waiting period without antibiotics to see if the individuals get better on their own. Over the counter treatments for both bacterial and viral sinusitis include nasal steroid sprays, nasal irrigations or rinses as well as pain relievers.
Prevention and Prophylaxis:
An effective strategy to help prevent sinusitis is the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, which promotes rest, stress reduction, good nutrition, strengthening of the immune system, annual flu shots, exercise and frequent hand washing.
Where to find help:
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you could make an appointment with one of our Arizona specialists to help determine the right course of action, and treatment plan. Patients and healthcare providers should always conduct specialized testing and meet in person to discuss the benefits and potential risks or harms of treatments based on your unique body.
Caspersen, L.A., Walter, L.M., Walsh, S.A., Rosenfeld, R.M., and Piccirillo, J.F. (2015). Plain language summary: Adult sinusitis (Sinus infection). Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Vol. 153(2), Lal, D. (n.d.) Fungal sinusitis. care.american-rhinologic.org/fungal_sinusitis
American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved from entnet.org/
WebMD. Allergies Health Center. webmd.com/allergies/picture-of-the-sinuses