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Allergists at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas Say This Year's Fall Allergy Season Could be Worst in Decades
Date:9/12/2007

DALLAS, Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- If you're one of the millions of Texans who suffers through the misery of fall allergies, hold on to your handkerchief: Allergy researchers at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas say the upcoming ragweed season could be the worst in decades.

"The unusually wet weather this summer means ragweed plants are big and healthy, and that's bad news for lots of people," said Gary Gross, MD, an allergist at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. "Ragweed tends to be one of the worst pollens in Texas, and I think this fall could be the worst in recent memory."

Even worse, more congestion means more people who catch colds and flu this fall will have a tougher and longer battle with the viruses. And with congestion and viral bugs come more sinus infections. "I hate to say it, but it's going to be a rough fall for millions of people," Dr. Gross said.

In addition to wet weather this year in many parts of the state, rising global temperatures during the last decade have increased pollination, as ragweed and other plants struggle to survive the harsher conditions. Additionally, higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air help ragweed grow larger and use water more efficiently, according to recent studies.

"Opportunistic plants like ragweed thrive in warm conditions with more carbon dioxide," said Sandeep Gupta, MD, an allergist on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. "When you mix in the tremendous amount of rain we've had this summer, things are going to be really bad this fall for allergy sufferers."

Floods swamped numerous parts of the state this year. River banks, where ragweed traditionally grows, were made fertile from the rushing water of heavy rains. Swollen rivers that crested their normal banks also created millions of acres more than normal of the wet, disturbed soil where ragweed best germinates. Any region in Texas where flooding occurred likely will have high ragweed counts this fall, doctors say.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an allergic response to pollen (the male component of the plant reproductive system) or other microscopic substances. The condition, simply called 'allergies' by many people, affects up to 20 percent of people in Texas and nationwide. That's about 60 million people in the United States -- or five million Texans.

Hay fever has many of the same symptoms as a cold or other viral infection, but it can be much worse, lasting for weeks, even months, Dr. Gross said. "Allergies can have a significant negative impact on a person's quality of life. People who suffer from it don't want to go to work, they can't sleep, their head hurts, they're congested. It can be really devastating."

Nationally, reduced workplace productivity and increased absenteeism related to allergies cost U.S. companies about $250 million a year, according to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. While the condition itself accounts for sick time and lost productivity, some of the most popular over- the-counter treatments can have side effects, including drowsiness, that are as bad as the illness, Dr. Gupta said.

"If someone's having problems, they should go to their primary care physician or allergist to discuss some of the effective prescription medications on the market today," Dr. Gupta said. "For people with severe problems, allergy shots may be the best answer."

The fall ragweed season usually starts in September and lasts until November, when the plants go dormant.


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SOURCE Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
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