Amarillo allergists predict worst allergy season in decades

Experts expect a ‘pollen tsunami’ to hit the Texas Panhandle
Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 8:14 AM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Allergy experts say a ‘pollen tsunami’ is on its way to the Texas Panhandle, predicting the harshest allergy season in decades due to the area’s intense winter conditions.

The Panhandle’s extremely cold temperatures forced vegetation to go into survival mode, rapidly reproducing itself to keep from dying.

“Any kind of organisms that fights for its survival...they try to reproduce, they try to multiply,” explained Nabarun Ghosh, Ph.D, professor of biology at West Texas A&M University. ”And for the way of multiplication for those type of organisms such as molds, they create mold spores, which is happening now.”

As temperatures increase, those large amounts of vegetation will begin pollinating at the same time.

For instance, trees typically pollinate before grass. Now, due to tree branches freezing, both will pollinate at the same time.

“When the weather is cold they become dormant and then once the weather warms up they will immediately start pollinating,” explained Dr. Constantine Saadeh, allergist immunologist for Allergy A.R.T.S. “We had late cold weather and it killed the tree pollens, so there’s a delay in the tree pollen to come out. So it’s coming out at the same time as the grass and that’s one of the reasons we expect this to be coming worse than usual.”

This will also cause allergy season to be delayed.

Allergy season typically begins in mid-March, but is now predicted to delay into late March or early April.

“We can expect a drastic change here, which will be pushing forward maybe into March, maybe in April,” said Dr. Ghosh. “With the climate conditions, we can expect more weeds to come, prolonged flowering season, and more pollen produced and more fungal spores in the air.”

Fungal spores, or mold, will also contribute to this year’s allergy season.

Due to moisture on the ground because of recent snow and rising temperatures, more mold will be produced and released into the air.

“You’re going to see definitely an increase in the amount of mold because its more favorable conditions,” said Aubrey Howard, graduate aeroallergen student at WTAMU. “Because of those favorable conditions, more mold spores will be produced. Specifically moisture will really contribute to a higher production amount.”

Texas Panhandle residents typically see worse allergy conditions then the rest of Texas due to our close proximity to other states and Palo Duro Canyon.

“The amount of allergies actually diagnosed is double in this are than all of the state average,” said Howard. “A huge contributor is Palo Duro Canyon, which is so close ...because we have an increased amount of those plants in Palo Duro Canyon and the shape of Palo Duro Canyon acts like a funnel and when the wind comes it puts a lot of pollen grains into the air. It really impacts people in the surrounding areas.”

“We are unique in this area of the Texas Panhandle in terms of geographical location,” added Dr. Ghosh. “Just look at our boarders. We have different states like Colorado, Oklahoma, we have New Mexico, and they have totally different types of vegetation. Pollen can travel very far, like 400 miles, so interestingly enough, the pollen spores we receive in this are are coming from Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.”

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