Man with allergies blows his nose into a tissue.

The Metroplex’s Most Common Allergens

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has confirmed most Metroplex natives’ suspicions: Dallas is one of the worst cities in America for seasonal allergies. Learn more about the top allergy culprits and ways you can limit your family’s allergen exposure.

An Infamous Ranking

Each year, the AAFA compiles a list of fall and spring Allergy Capitals based on pollen scores and the number of community members who take allergy medications or see an allergy specialist. These “capitals” are allergy central — and Dallas consistently makes the cut. In 2014, Dallas ranked No. 7 on the list of the worst cities for spring allergens and No. 15 on the list for fall allergens.

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“In Texas, we have at least one plant blooming 365 days a year,” says Maria Flaquer, M.D., primary care physician at Crescent Family Medicine, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “People contend with mountain cedar in the winter and a variety of other trees, grasses and weeds during the spring, summer and fall months.”

So what are some of the more common allergens?

Oak Trees. The National Institutes of Health classifies oak trees as the most common tree allergen. Approximately 35 types of oak trees call Texas home. In the Metroplex, oak trees decorate nearly every yard and, when compared to other trees, produce pollen for the longest period of time. Oak tree pollen season spans from February to May and peaks in early March.

Ashleaf Maple. The ashleaf maple tree, also know as the box elder, begins blooming in early spring and continues pollinating through April and into May. Ashleaf maple pollen is highly allergenic. Other maples native to Texas that may cause issues for allergy sufferers include red, silver, Japanese and southern sugar maple trees.

Grasses. Grasses typically release pollen during the late spring and early summer months, according to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology. In North Texas, Bermuda, Johnson and rye grasses top the list of allergy contributors.

Arizona Cypress. The Arizona Cypress tree is related to the Mountain Cedar, so if you’re allergic to one, you’re likely allergic to both. Unfortunately, Arizona Cypress typically begins pollinating in the spring — right around the time Mountain Cedar season ends.

Ragweed. A notorious weed most commonly found during the late summer and fall months, ragweed allergies affect 10 to 20 percent of Americans. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, a single ragweed plant can release up to 1 billion pollen grains, and people who are allergic to ragweed may also experience hay fever symptoms when eating bananas or cantaloupe.

Decoding Your Allergy Triggers

Because there are so many plants blooming in Texas throughout the year, it can be difficult to determine the specific cause of your allergy symptoms. Dr. Flaquer recommends keeping an allergy log when symptoms, such as watery eyes, a runny nose and congestion, appear. Make sure to note the day’s pollen count, the amount of time you spent outdoors, and whether or not you tried any new foods. Keep in mind the only definitive way to diagnose allergies is allergy testing. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to an allergist if your symptoms are severe and don’t respond to medication.

The best way to manage allergies is to stop symptoms before they start. If allergy symptoms strike like clockwork every spring, fall or winter, visit your primary care doctor two to four weeks before they typically begin. Your doctor will likely prescribe a preventive medicine, such as Singulair® or Flonase®, that decreases your body’s sensitivity to allergens. According to Dr. Flaquer you can also take over-the-counter remedies, such as Benadryl® or Claritin®, with your preventive meds when needed.

To find a primary care provider who can help you manage your allergy symptoms, visit THPG.org.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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