Drought Can Have Drastic Effect On Health

Dr. Robert Urban, TTUHSC's Internal Medicine
Dr. Robert Urban, TTUHSC's Internal Medicine
Kathy Kennel, Nurse Practitioner, Allergy ARTS
Kathy Kennel, Nurse Practitioner, Allergy ARTS

This is proclaimed to be the worst pollen season the Panhandle has seen in 15 years.

Medical professionals say Panhandle residents have the ongoing drought to thank for an upswing in allergies, bronchitis and strep throat.

The dry conditions, combined with strong winds to kick up dust, make it easier for allergens and diseases to travel through the area.

Spring-like weather in late winter has trees blooming...and sending pollen and other allergens through the dry air.

Dr. Robert Urban at TTUHSC's Internal Medicine department says, "I've had several patients in here with allergies in early February or March, and that's early."

Kathy Kennelly, a nurse practitioner at Allergy ARTS, says "the cedar trees are getting us this year. It's the highest they've been in 15 years because of the drought. And the longer the drought, the longer the season, the longer the pollinating, and the worse the allergies get."

Even those who typically do not have trouble with their allergies are going to the doctor's office.

Kennelly says, "gradually, each time they're exposed to allergens, it gets worse and worse until finally they're miserable and have tried everything - the anti-histamines, nasal spray, that's when the come to see us."

Another doctor we spoke with says his office has seen record numbers of bronchitis and strep throat because of the dry air.

But as the drought and Panhandle wind usher in allergens, they have pushed out the flu.

Dr. Urban says, "we usually have one big spike of influenza, sometimes in January or February. Our's already happened. It was a short flu season, about two week, but very intense."

Dr. Urban says our typical flu season lasts about six weeks.

Kennelly says not only is the drought triggering allergies, but grass fires do as well because smoke is an irritant carried through the air.