Forecast: Pollen with a chance of sniffles

Spring brings misery for allergy sufferers
Apr. 08, 2014 @ 10:14 PM

Winter has nearly run its course, and while the warmer weather of spring is a welcome change for many, others dread the other season synonymous with spring: pollen season.

Susan Condlin, director of the Lee County Cooperative Extension Center, said trees and flowers are now in bloom, contributing to sniffles and sneezes all around the area.

“It’s just one of those things where if you’re real sensitive, you might need to just stay inside or get some [allergy] pills,” Condlin said of the coming weeks.

There is no pollen forecast for Sanford specifically, but several local cities do have official forecasts, and the numbers aren’t good for people who are sensitive. A forecast in Chatham County’s Bear Creek by ranks today’s estimated pollen severity as a 10.2 on a scale of 0 to 12. Several zip codes south, at Fort Bragg, the pollen forecast for today was equally high.

The two locations’ forecasts don’t promise much respite in the near future, either.

In Wake County, measures the grains of pollen in every cubic foot of air. According to its measurements, pollen season has come on suddenly and forcefully. Last Tuesday, it measured 26 grains of pollen per cubic foot in Raleigh. By Thursday, that number had climbed to 662, and by Friday, it had hit 3,204 — a jump from nearly non-existent to “very high” in just four days.

And while there are no such pollen counts in Sanford, people’s visits to at least one local allergy specialist seem to indicate the out-of-town measures are similar to what’s happening here.

“Especially this week — it started maybe Friday — a lot of people are coming in,” said Dr. Doris Lin, a specialist in allergies, sinuses and other fields at Central Carolina Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, which has offices in Sanford and Apex.

She said North Carolinians face the unfortunate fact that there are simply a lot of plants here that produce allergens. And with the wet winter this year, she said, she expects plants to be extra lively as they reproduce and create pollen. Lin said the rainy season might also lead to an increase in mold spores, too.

Condlin said the main villains in pollen season are trees — such as oak, ash, elm, maple, gum, hickory and pecan — plus grass, flowers and weeds.

She added that those who need to be outside and are sensitive to pollen should buy an allergen mask — which they can at least wear when gardening or doing yard work — especially for sunny, windy days when pollen is at its worst. In the car, she said, it helps to have the AC on recirculate, and people also shouldn’t turn their home AC off because when it’s on, it cycles air through filters.

With the AC off, Condlin said, “if you don’t dust and vacuum daily, it’ll be all over your floors and the upholstery. You’ll basically be embedded in it.”

For those who do suffer from bad allergies, Lin said people can take non-medical steps like wearing masks, rinsing their nostrils with saline solutions and even simply blowing their noses frequently to get pollen out and stop the body from reacting to it.

For those who need more, though, she said her office does conduct allergy tests and can also prescribe strong allergy medications But she suggested that people try over-the-counter medicines at first, and to not get discouraged if one doesn’t work.

“I tell people to try Claritin for one week and if that doesn’t work, try Zyrtec or Allegra or another one,” Lin said. “People respond in different ways to different drugs.”