Allergies in Phoenix

Are Allergies Better or Worse in Phoenix?

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Do people have allergies in Phoenix? Yes, they do.

Some people come to the desert for relief from allergies. You'll find people who will tell you that their allergies got worse, and some who'll tell you that their allergies got better. Some people never had allergies before, but then suffer from allergies after they move to the desert. Some don't. I don't believe that there is any empirical data that will help you to determine whether you will or will not have allergies in the Phoenix area.

If you do end up with allergies, you won't know how long during the year you'll be sniffling or how severe your allergies will be. If other considerations are not overriding, locating in a lesser populated, rural part of Arizona may afford you a better chance at relief than in a high growth, densely populated area.

So what is causing so many people to have allergies in the desert? I have three nasty words for you: pollen, dust, and pollution.

It's entirely possible, and probably common, that what you were allergic to where you came from is different than what you are allergic to in Phoenix. That's because there are pollen producing plants all over the country, but different regions have different plants.

Allergic Reactions to Pollen

What I can tell you is that about 35% of the people who live in the Phoenix area experience some degree of Allergic Rhinitis, more commonly referred to as hay fever.

If you have hay fever, it means that your body is reacting to pollen or mold by releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause sneezing, fluid in the eyes and nose, congestion and itchiness.

Generally, pollen from plants with brightly colored flowers usually does not trigger allergies. The birds and the bees take care of those. More pollen problems arise with trees, grasses, and weeds. Our growing season here is all year, so allergies never seem to stop.

I have heard comments, and seen comments in print, declaring that the introduction of non-native plants into the area by the quickly growing population is to blame for our allergies. Yes, there are non-native culprit plants, but native plants cause allergies, too. Ragweed is one of the most common allergy-causing plants in the United States and Greater Phoenix has over a dozen native species of ragweed.

20 Trees to Avoid If You Have Hay Fever

If you are buying a home in the Phoenix area, you might want to avoid planting the following trees if allergies are a concern.

Likewise, if you are an apartment dweller, it may be important to find out what those trees are outside your balcony before you sign a lease and find out they are olive trees!

  1. African Sumac
  2. Arizona Ash
  3. Arizona Cypress
  4. Arizona Sycamore
  5. Canary Island Date Palm
  6. Chinese Elm
  7. Cottonwood
  8. Desert Broom
  9. Desert Fan Palm
  1. Feather Palm
  2. Hackberry
  3. Juniper
  4. Mesquite
  5. Mexican Fan Palm
  6. Mulberry
  7. Oak
  8. Olive tree
  9. Palo Verde
  10. Pecan
  11. Pepper Tree

In addition to trees, try to avoid all grasses. Put in desert landscaping instead of grass. Make sure you attack weeds quickly as they sprout, which they will even in desert rock. Better yet, use a pre-emergent to kill them before they grow. Tumbleweeds may be fun to look at, but that Russian Thistle should be avoided if you have allergies.

Note: None of the information here is intended to be medical advice. The details provided here are general, and factors relating to pollen, dust and pollution will affect each person differently. Consult a doctor to diagnose and treat any medical condition.

We live in the desert and there is probably more dust here than where you came from. It's dry and doesn't rain very often--Phoenix is experiencing a drought that has lasted over a decade. There are agriculture and developments, highway construction, and driving on unpaved lots kicking up that dust. Vacant lands are covered with dust. During monsoon and a few other times of the year, we have dust storms and dust devils.

For people with allergies, that's not good news.


Dust can certainly have an effect on your respiratory system, especially if you have asthma. Coughing, wheezing and teary eyes might be the immediate symptoms, but Valley Fever could be just around the corner.

There are dust-related allergies. Dust mites eat the microscopic skin dander found on people and animals, then leave droppings. Even a clean home can have dust mites. The inhaling of dust mite droppings may produce allergic reactions. The humidity in the Phoenix area is usually pretty low, and that's a good thing because dust mites thrive in higher humidity. If you use an evaporative cooler, be aware that you are creating moisture in which dust mites like to live.

If you have allergies to dust, here are some tips to reduce dust inside your home.

  1. Vacuum often. Get a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter system
  2. Use wet mops and wet dust cloths, never dry ones.
  1. Keep pets out of the bedroom, and certainly off the bed.
  2. Cover pillows, mattress and box springs with dust-proof casings.
  3. Reduce the amount of carpet in the house. Use throw rugs that can be regularly washed and dried.
  4. Don't use feather pillows or comforters.

The message here is clean, clean, clean. Don't just move the dust around!

Note: None of the information here is intended to be medical advice. The details provided here are general, and factors relating to pollen, dust and pollution will affect each person differently. Consult a doctor to diagnose and treat any medical condition.

As our population grows, our air gets worse. More development, more people, more cars, more concrete means more problems with our air. The Phoenix area is nicknamed the Valley of the Sun for a good reason: it sits in a valley. Without a lot of rain or wind, the pollutants tend to just hang around in the valley, making it uncomfortable for many residents who are sensitive to it. Eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and shortness of breath may result on days when pollution in the area is bad.

People with asthma and other respiratory illnesses are especially at risk on those days.

Air pollutants that we have in Phoenix are usually nitrogen oxides, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulates. Cars account for most of the problem, and that pollution is worse in the winter when cold air traps the pollution in the Valley. Air pollution advisories will be issued when ozone levels or particulate concentrations are high.

If you have allergic reactions to higher levels of pollution, you may experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or fatigue. Here are some tips for you.


  1. Limit outdoor activity on air pollution advisory days.
  2. The very young and very old should stay inside on air pollution advisory days.
  3. Don't participate in strenuous activity on those days.
  4. Filters and room air cleaners can help reduce indoor particle levels.
  5. Don't smoke, and if you do, don't do it in the house.
  1. Don't burn wood in your fireplace.
  2. Try not to drive on unpaved roads. If you have to, close your vents and turn on the a/c to reduce the amount of dust coming into the vehicle.
You can see the daily air quality report and next day forecast online, provided by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. You can even get the air quality notifications by email.

Page 1: Intro to Allergies in Phoenix
Page 2: Pollen in Phoenix
Page 3: Dust in Phoenix
Page 4: Pollution in Phoenix

The following sources were used for some of the material in this article:
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Southwest Asthma and Allergy From University of Arizona
Note: None of the information here is intended to be medical advice. The details provided here are general, and factors relating to pollen, dust and pollution will affect each person differently. Consult a doctor to diagnose and treat any medical condition.