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
What is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis (A.R) is more commonly referred to as “hay fever” or “allergies.” The medical term describes a cluster of symptoms that affect the nose, causing inflammation and an immune system reaction. Exposure to irritants or allergens during the Arizona allergy season can cause extreme discomfort and may also exacerbate other respiratory issues, making diagnosis and treatment vital.
Once treated, most people find that recovery is rapid, and that they can immediately return to normal activities. The problem is that most people do not go to a specialist right away, so please read so you can avoid this!
Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms & Causes
Patients suffering from A.R. can react differently from one another. Usually, early signs cause clients to wake up feeling groggy or stuffed up, with a tickle in their throat or nose. After a day of rubbing their eyes and sneezing, most know that the allergy has started. If you are experiencing any of the following, Allergic rhinitis is a likely culprit:
- Persistent sneezing
- Runny nose
- Watery Eyes
- Feelings of pressure in the head, neck, or face
- Fatigue or sluggishness
- Poor sleep quality
- Altered sense of smell
- Altered sense of taste
- Clogged ears or impaired hearing
- Discoloration around the eyes
- Mild swelling or puffiness in the eye or nasal area
- Sore throat or hoarse voice from draining
Hayfever (allergic rhinitis). can be caused by any irritant that triggers the immune system. Dust, animal dander, mold, pollen, or chemical exposure, are all possible instigators, with pollen being the most common. When pollen is the issue, we often refer to the condition as “hay fever.” Grasses, weeds, desert flowers and trees flood the air with seeds and pollehttp://allergyarizona.net/pollen-count-and-allergic-reactions-treatments-from-phoenix-allergist/n throughout the warm months, making hot, dry Arizona allergy season conditions especially miserable for hay fever sufferers.
Treatment Options -Make Changes to your Lifestyle
Great strides can be made to address allergies via simple lifestyle changes.
Patients often find tremendous relief from installing air filters that remove excess dust, debris, dust mites, and pet dander from the air. This is particularly important when they live near high traffic areas, construction sites, or open fields. If allergies are severe, it may be smart to avoid opening windows since dust tends to blow around at a higher rate. Adding humidity to the air will help contaminants fall to the ground so they can’t irritate sensitive nasal passages and lungs.
- Mold: If mold is a factor in symptoms, patients shouldhave a heating and cooling professional visit to inspect for growth in vents and air conditioning units.
- Food: Food allergies can compound other allergies, so if you see reactions after eating foods containing dairy, nuts, or other common allergens, you should make dietary alterations to reduce inflammation and reactivity in the body, and make an appointment immediately at one of our allergy clinics!
- Pet Dander: It may be impossible to give up pets, so it is important to try other measures that dramatically reduce exposure to dander. Using washable slip covers on furniture is recommended. Frequent vacuuming with a cleaner designed to pick up pet hair is ideal. Strategically placed air filters can greatly minimize the presence of allergens in rooms frequented by Fido or Fluffy.
- Nasal Wash: The popularity of nasal washes is directly due to their success in helping allergy sufferers. The wash serves to both soothe nasal passages and rinse away debris. As this debris is reduced, compounding of congestion as blocked passages collect allergens is resolved, providing almost immediate comfort. Special pots for this purpose have been around for centuries and are known as “neti pots.” More modern versions can be found in most pharmacies.
Treatment Options -Clinical Solutions to Allergic Rhinitis
There’s a good chance that if you’ve read this far, you’ve already tried a number of lifestyle solutions without success. This indicates that it’s time to get professional help at one of our clinics. Something more complex may be causing your allergies and we do a number of allergy tests that can help us to find out what is triggering your issues. Our doctors can even test for specific allergens – and will prescribe targeted treatments that work MUCH better than home, or over-the-counter remedies.
Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates can help!
Our 5 clinics have allergy experts (nurses, physicians and staff) who can get to the true heart of your problem. While the term “allergies” is very broad, the truth is that most patients struggle with a few specific triggers to their respiratory health. Knowing exactly what those are, helps you and your doctor identify the most successful, individualized treatment plan for you. This may include lifestyle changes similar to those above, or could include prescription strength medications. Treatments may include:
- Oral antihistamines to block the body’s allergic reactions
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays
- Decongestants to mitigate symptoms
- Leukotriene inhibitors to stop the release of allergy associated chemicals in the body
- Allergy shots
No matter what course you and your physician choose, A.R. is highly responsive to treatment. Most of these are noninvasive, and allow you to live uninterrupted with vastly improved comfort and energy levels. There is no reason to delay. Call us now at 602-242-4592 and banish your allergy symptoms today!
About our Ozone and Allergies
Ozone is a reactive gas that is composed of three oxygen atoms (O3). It can be either natural or man-made. Natural ozone is created by oxygen in the atmosphere interacting with UV radiation; this is how the Earth’s ozone layer was created. Up in the atmosphere, ozone works to filter UV radiation and keep it from reaching the Earth’s surface. Man-made ozone results from reactions between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. VOCs can come from chemical plants, gasoline pumps, oil-based paints, auto body shops, and print shops. Nitrogen oxides often come from high temperature combustion, sources of which include power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers, and motor vehicles.
While high ozone levels are typically associated with large urban areas, they can occur anywhere. Ozone can travel for hundreds of miles on wind patterns, settling in new areas far away from where it originated. This also means high ozone levels can occur at any time of the day or night, though they risk being the highest in the afternoon during the heat of the day.
Because of its reactive qualities, ozone that is inhaled can react with the tissues and biological molecules present in the respiratory tract. This can lead to severe inflammation of the respiratory passages, decrease lung function, and induce respiratory symptoms. Those symptoms include:
- throat irritation
- chest pain, burning, or discomfort when taking a breath
- chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
In addition, research has shown that higher levels of ozone in the air can lead to increased asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and risk of death. Ozone can trigger asthma attacks, increase sensitivity to asthma triggers, and aggravate existing asthma symptoms.
Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016:
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at H.R. 4775. While its detractors call it the ‘Smoggy Skies Act’, its official name is the ‘Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016‘. The bill is a direct answer to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) set by the EPA. By revising these standards as they are currently written in the Clean Air Act, this bill will do a couple of things:
First, it will delay the clean air standards set by the EPA in 2015, extending the deadline for compliance until October 26, 2024. In addition, it will delay the EPA declaring areas of the states as ‘attainment’, ‘non-attainment’, or ‘unclassifiable’ under the 2015 NAAQS regulations until 2025.
Second, it will change the EPA’s review cycle for criteria pollutants from a 5 year cycle to a 10 year cycle, with the next review not being allowed before October 26, 2025. And prior to establishing any new regulations, the EPA must meet with its advisory committee to assess the benefits and costs associated with making changes to the NAAQS.
How will H.R. 4775 Impact Allergy Sufferers:
So what will this mean if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory allergies? It means the clean air requirements that were established by the EPA in 2015 will have their implementation delayed until at least 2024. Supporters of the bill may cite the costs of retrofitting manufacturing facilities to meet these higher air quality standards on relatively short notice, and they may also cite the costs of retrofitting old factories to meet these new standards. It could potentially mean that manufacturing facilities in U.S. cities with the worst air quality will have more time to retrofit their facilities to meet the new requirements, leading to many more years of individuals suffering increased allergy and asthma attacks due to pollution. It could also potentially weaken the Clean Air Act’s limits on other potentially dangerous pollutants, such as Carbon Monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, leading to an increase in those pollutants in the air.
Info brought to you by your staff from Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates, P.C..
Arizona Allergy Problems and Treatment for El Nino
Do you remember the strong El Niño of 1997-98? The Phoenix Valley and much of Arizona experienced a wet late winter. This year’s El Niño is at least as strong or possibly even stronger than the one in 1997-98, a fact that seems to be borne out by strong storms hitting the California coast and making their way over the mountains to Arizona. Not only will the tempest be in the skies, it will also be in the nasal passages and lungs of local allergy sufferers.
Already we’re seeing an uptick in the number of people visiting our Valley-wide allergy and asthma clinics. That’s because the wet conditions typical of an El Niño winter and spring in Arizona are ideal for producing mold spores followed by pollen as trees and desert plants begin awakening from their short winter slumber. Even if your allergies are mild, you will likely experience increased symptoms over the next few months.
For some patients, the strength of their symptoms can become severe, leading to respiratory distress and hospitalization. Become proactive and visit us before your symptoms become too severe. Ignoring strong allergy symptoms can lead to nasal and ear infections and to respiratory problems such as bronchitis in addition to severe asthma.
Unfortunately, many Arizonans can expect severe symptoms for several months. Due to our high levels of rain since last fall, the desert will come alive with blooming plants, meaning the air will be saturated with more pollen than normal until the summer burns it off.
In addition to immunotherapy and taking medications before you head outside, you can do several things to lessen symptom severity. Keep doors and windows closed and make sure that air conditioning filters are changed frequently. Set your ventilation system in your car to recirculate cabin air so additional allergens aren’t pulled in.
Pollen levels tend to be highest in the morning and dissipate as the day goes on. Avoid hiking and wear a mask if you are going to do any gardening. Shower when you come in to wash off pollen.
If your symptoms seem to spiral out of control, consider getting additional allergy testing. You may have developed additional sensitivities, but the only way to know definitively is to come into our office and be tested. Please contact our office today or online appointment setter today to schedule an appointment with our Allergy physician today!