As the ragweed invasion settles in on North Texas, don’t expect those itchy eyes and runny noses to clear up anytime soon.
“If it’s windy, people are going to be miserable,” said Dr. John Fling, who is board certified in allergy and immunology at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth. “We’re seeing a lot of issues with the eyes this year.”
Ragweed showed up in small amounts starting in mid-August but reached high levels on Sept. 7, according to the pollen reporting site in Dallas. Since then, it has reached high levels seven of the last eight days.
“It's going to be a bad year because we had a lot of rain in the spring and summer,” Fling said. “It’s going to be worse than the last several years.”
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The standard allergy recommendations apply: Take antihistamine daily. A daily nasal steroid spray is also helpful, especially if you start using the spray before the symptoms kick in.
For the more serious sufferers, allergy shots or a prescribed tablet, such as Ragwitek, under the tongue can help. But those tablets need be started before the season begins, Fling said.
Dr. James Haden, a Fort Worth allergist, said allergies are becoming an increasingly year-round headache in Texas. He expects ragweed pollen to stick around until the first freeze sometime in November.
“A warmer, more humid climate has been shown to increase the ragweed biomass and consequently the volume of pollen produced,” Haden said.
A 2008 study, Ragweed as an Example of Worldwide Allergen Expansion, looked at how ragweed was moving into parts of the world where it was not native. It has been spreading across Europe. Researchers believe it came in “potato sacks, American war supplies, and cereal sacks in the 1930s to 1960,” the study said.
Whether it’s the U.S., Europe or elsewhere, warmer weather has helped ragweed spread.
“The observations that the growing seasons appear to be increasing in length could have dramatic implications for expansion of allergenic plants into regions with colder climates and the level of pollens in areas where the species already exists in adequate numbers,” the study said.
Locally, winter was almost nonexistent in 2016-17.
At Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, last year’s winter was the warmest on record with only 11 freezes, which was also a record. The last freeze occurred on Jan. 8, which was the earliest last freeze on record. None of that helped those with allergies.
“For us here, there has been very little time over the past year with no pollen in the air,” Haden said.
And while ragweed is the scourge right now, the dreaded Mountain Cedar pollen is just around the corner.