Fall allergy season arrives in North Texas, and it won't be a short one

The itchy eyes and the sneezing have returned.

The first break in the heat earlier this month was enough to set off the fall allergy season, and it looks like it will be a long one. Even the recent rains will likely provide only temporary relief.

"It is very early, and we are seeing very high pollen counts," said James Haden, a physician at the Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Fort Worth. "The ragweed season started much earlier than usual. We've been seeing high ragweed, cedar elm and mold counts."

This year, the biggest complaint has been from patients' eyes itching like crazy. By the time they come to Haden, they're usually desperate.

"They've already tried over-the-counter antihistamines and sprays," Haden said. "Those haven't worked, and they're feeling miserable."

Vicki Saylor-Probes can relate to those suffering now.

She was one of those desperate patients when she first came seeking help more than a year ago.

The 61-year-old grandmother had suffered sinus headaches for years without knowing what was causing them. Her primary-care physician had given her medications that hadn't helped, and she finally went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who referred her to the allergy clinic. She began taking shots and started seeing improvement.

Once she was tested and learned that allergies were the culprit, Saylor-Probes ripped the carpets out of her Fort Worth home to make it as allergy-proof as possible.

"I don't feel sick anymore. I wished I had come years ago and found out what was bothering me," Saylor-Probes said. "I was having sinus infections and headaches multiple times a week."

In the case of ragweed, Haden said there's really no escaping it, whether it grows on your property or not. The pollen travels easily through the air, and it can be hard to displace once it gets inside.

"You need to keep your windows closed, and if you're out in the yard, you need take your clothes off in the laundry room as soon as you come inside and not spread the pollen around the house," Haden said. "You don't want to walk through the house carrying that pollen with you because once it's there it can be very hard to displace. It can take months for it to break down."

North Texas isn't alone in seeing a bad fall season. The Northeast is also experiencing a difficult fall allergy season. But Haden said North Texas's allergy issues are bad as anywhere in the country.

"I would put us up against anybody," Haden said. "There's something almost year-round since you go from fall allergies straight into mountain cedar and then back into spring allergies. And there are allergies in the summertime, too, so it is a year-round thing."

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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