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Drought relief: Dry weather helping some Central Texas allergy sufferers

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Posted: Monday, November 7, 2011 12:00 pm

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

While the drought may be negatively affecting everything from the cattle industry and well-manicured lawns to fire dangers and water tables, it is providing some relief to certain allergy sufferers.

Due to the extreme dry conditions, grasses that normally are problematic during the fall season already have gone dormant because of a lack of rain in some areas, said Barron Rector, associate professor and range specialist with Texas Agrilife Extension Service in College Station.

Local pollen counts reported to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology also show that grasses are absent in the air in Central Texas.

However, Rector said those areas that had good rainfalls in September and October may see some King Ranch bluestem grass flowering on the roadsides because of highway runoff.

"If the rain had come in August, grasses would be flowering everywhere," he said. "It's just too late."

Rains stimulated two weeds

Because Central Texas finally received two significant rainfalls, said Rector, two weeds were stimulated and are now causing some allergy sufferers to run to the pharmacy.

"There are two plants that are flowering right now with limited water," he said. "One is an annual weed that's native to the area called broadleaf sumpweed, or broadleaf marshelder. ... The second most important plant in the fall in your area ... is Western ragweed, which is a native perennial weed."

Both plants are sunflowers native to Central Texas. Both have pollen that floats in the air and flower in the late summer and fall.

"It sat there and didn't flower, and then the rain came," said Rector.

Now the area pollen counts show a "high concentration" of weeds.

Fewer allergies, fewer patients

Dr. Brian Miller, a certified allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Center of Central Texas in Killeen, said he's noticed a drop in allergies this season.

"The plants do pollinate, but the seasons are shorter so it's less severe," he said.

Miller added that he's seen fewer patients in his clinic this year than in previous ones, even though the fall typically brings in four heavy-hitting allergens: fall grasses, ragweed, cedar elm and mold.

"That's not true of any other time of the year in Central Texas," he said.

For people who are suffering from allergies, Miller suggests they try an over-the-counter antihistamine.

"I recommend if you have symptoms that persist for four to six weeks for more than two years in a row, to see an allergist for an allergy vaccine," said Miller. "You're injected with the actual components you're allergic to, but it produces a different response of the immune system so the body produces a blocking antibody."

Rector said allergy sufferers should also take a look at what's growing around them.

"As a person with allergies, I would want to know what I have growing in my yard, in the alley, in the yards of the people surrounding me, in the empty lots nearby and how close I am to a manicured park because all these are the sources of plants that would affect me," said Rector. "Some people are able to be proactive, to know when plants that bother them are starting to flower, and they work with their doctor."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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