Am I allergic to the weather?

No Wait Weather
Spring is here and so is allergy season

HOUSTON (CW39) Do you notice yourself sneezing more than usual this time of year? Without the awareness of allergies that you could be suffering from, it is not completely out of the norm for people to relate the number of tissues they use to change in weather patterns.

Can you be allergic to the weather?

Our atmosphere and the earth’s environment are very closely intertwined. Plants are affected by the day-to-day weather just like you! Excessive rain, cold fronts, windy conditions, and dry spells all have a different effect on the flora around us.

How your body fights:

Your immune system sees pollen as a foreign invader to your body. When these tiny particulates enter your airways via nose and mouth, your body produces antibodies to fight the pollen particles. A chemical, histamine, is then produced which causes common allergy symptoms including watery eyes, headaches, asthma, coughing, or a runny nose.

The spread of tree pollen through Texas weather:

Because pollen particles are so small, they are easily spread through the atmosphere by day-to-day weather. One of the most popular Texas allergens is the mountain cedar. This is predominant west of I-35 where the phrase ‘cedar fever’ was coined. Ironically there is no fever or flu like symptoms involved with this allergic reaction.

“Following a cold front, the air dries out, we get some wind, and the pressure is different”

 – Robert Edmonson, a biologist for the Texas A&M Forest Service

Mountain cedar trees, especially Ashe Junipers here in Texas, like to release high amounts of pollen right after a cold front, common during the winter months. Because these trees are so highly concentrated in the central part of the state the pure density of pollen in the air at times can even have effects on those who aren’t’ susceptible to allergies. On windy days, which are common after a cold front, these particles get blown around into the atmosphere wreaking havoc on our immune system.

“Under those conditions, every single pollen cone on a juniper tree will open at one time, and it looks like the trees are on fire. It looks like there’s smoke coming off of them.”

– Robert Edmonson, a biologist for the Texas A&M Forest Service

Rain… a double-edge sword for allergies

Normally, we think that rain is great for improving allergy counts and finally putting an end to our sniffles. Many of us may have heard or used the phrase “cleansing the air” when talking about rain’s effects on pollen. However, doesn’t rain cause plants to grow? Thus, creating MORE pollen?

So, what’s the deal here, is it good for allergies or bad?

Yes. And yes.

Mountain Cedar releasing pollen
Courtesy of Getty Images

The upside to rain and allergies:

Rain is good for pollen allergies. It weighs down the pollen with higher humidity levels, keeping it grounded when the wind blows. With less rain and less moisture, particles become lighter and are easily tossed into the atmosphere on windy days. This also allows for pollen to travel further distances once lifted.

The downside to rain and allergies:

Besides tree pollen, grass, weeds, dust, and mold are other common enemies to our body’s immune system. Some suffer just as bad or worse from these allergens.

Rain has a different impact on these, which is unfortunate for us. It’s the uncommon intense short-lived downpours, that send grass and weed pollen plunging to the ground. Upon contact the pollen is broken up into the smaller pieces. As the smaller pieces of pollen disperse, we see a steep rise in grass and weed pollen.

Mold counts climb significantly in damp, humid conditions. Lowering your humidity with the help of a humidifier, limiting house plants, and being sure to fix all leaks that lead to damp areas can help with any development of mold spores in your home.

There are ways you can mitigate problematic areas in your yard as well. Mold will thrive in piles of wet leaves and branches. It is best to make sure these are cleared from where you are living if you suffer badly from mold allergies. Here in Houston, our highest mold counts come from Cladosporium and Ascospores.

Conclusion: Weather and Allergies

Cold fronts in the winter months aid in the spread of mountain cedar.

Dry and windy weather: Increases the spread of tree pollen

Damp and humid weather: Increases mold count

So, are you allergic to the weather? No. However, keeping up with the latest forecast can keep you ahead of the game! Refilling that prescription before a big cold front or cleaning your yard before a solid week of steady rain can keep your symptoms at ease.

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