Spring brings misery for allergy sufferers

Honey demand high as pollen levels rise
Mar. 26, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

North Carolina is known as the land of the pine, but for those who suffer from allergies, the tree can be more of an irritant than a symbol of state pride.

Forests abound locally, many of them containing one or more of the state's eight indigenous types of pine tree: eastern white, loblolly, longleaf, pitch, pond, shortleaf, table mountain and Virginia pine. Those trees' pollen gets lots of noses running and eyes watering, and according to some knowledgeable locals, this year could be worse than normal.

"I've seen some reports saying it's going to be a pretty tough allergy situation between now and October," said Charles Clifford, a pharmacist at Sanford's Medicine Park Pharmacy, who added that pine tree pollen is probably the biggest culprit for allergies in the area.

"When these pine trees start blooming out, you'll just see dust everywhere, like wow," he said. "... My family and I moved up here from Mississippi, and we'd never seen anything like that before. It's a much wetter climate down there."

Clifford said that when people come into his office complaining of allergies, there's no way to immediately determine which medicine may be the most help. Some people respond well to non-drowsy varieties, he said, while others respond better to other types of antihistamines, some of which can cause drowsiness.

For people who don't want to take the medicinal route, there's also the tradition of eating locally produced honey because it contains pollen — unlike many mass-produced, big-brand honey products — and is considered by some to be a rather tasty way to build up a tolerance to pollen from local plants.

"I've got quite a few people who use it for allergies," local bee-keeper James Graves said Monday. "But being as I'm not a doctor, I can't say if it actually does help or not."

However, local honey fans and potential converts are in for some bad news — supplies might be dwindling.

"I'm completely sold out — I don't know of anybody in Lee County who has local honey left," Graves said, adding that new batches could come out in May. Two other Lee County honey producers, Spivey Farms and Campbell Bee Farm, couldn't be reached by phone on Monday. Spivey Farms has a recorded message saying its last season ended in July and won't begin again until April; Campbell Bee Farm posted on Facebook in early February that honey was still available, but there have been no honey-related posts since.

For Moore, Harnett and Chatham residents who want to get ahold of the sticky stuff, all of those counties have their own beekeepers' association websites with information about local honey producers.

And while the supplies aren't from Lee County, semi-local honey can be found in Sanford at both the Carolina Artists Colony —  which has honey from Elizabethtown, located about 75 miles away in Bladen County — and Jackson Brothers Produce, which carries Pittsboro honey.

Whether or not honey is a legitimate way to fight pollen allergies, pollen does remain just one of a number of allergens to which people are susceptible. According to The Weather Channel, which has many allergy-related posts online at www.weather.com/health/allergy, allergies can also be triggered by food, dust, pet dander, mold and extreme temperatures, and even sources as seemingly innocuous as sunlight, chocolate, water, exercise and vibrations from cars or riding lawnmowers.