Local residents may notice their cars keep changing color, sometimes on a weekly basis. One week, cars may have a greenish film covering the body and windows. The next week, that green film may take on a yellowish tint.
It’s pollen — mostly pine and oak pollen.
Now through May, pollen will be everywhere — in the air and on the ground, cars and driveway, even on one’s head if one stands outside long enough. Windswept oak pollen tassels are carpeting much of the sidewalk along West Court Street. On Highway 84 South, piles of pine pollen cones are accumulating along the sidewalk near the golf course, looking like an infestation of mill worms.
Pollen also is what makes eyes water or causes people to sneeze a thousand times a day. For some people, allergic reactions to pollens can affect their quality of life. For them, and especially those with respiratory illnesses, a board-certified allergist can help.
“An allergist can help patients determine what allergens are causing their symptoms with a skin test,” said Dr. Stanley M. Fineman of Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. “Once they know what’s causing their symptoms, they can take precautions, and the allergist can recommend a treatment plan.”
According to the clinic’s website, the skin test/allergy test involves a small device that pricks the skin, injecting a small amount of a common allergen like dust, pollen, molds or pet dander. If you’re allergic to that particular allergen, a mosquito bite-size bump will appear. Fineman said treatment can include prescription medicines and immunotherapy injections. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec or Benadryl usually are effective for most people, he said. However, he said Benadryl causes drowsiness in about 40 percent of patients, and Zyrtec causes drowsiness in about 12 percent. Claritin and Allegra have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as safe for pilots to use.
Taking simple precautions, like staying indoors during the peak pollen season, also is a good idea, Fineman said. He advised people to use the air conditioner in their cars and homes. When one comes inside, he recommended washing hands thoroughly and even washing hair.
The Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that 80 percent of asthma cases in children and half of asthma cases in adults were caused by allergies.
Fineman, who has been in allergy practice for more than 30 years, said most of the pollens currently causing allergic reactions are from hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, ash, elm, sycamore and sweetgum.
“Pine (pollen) is a big problem, but it’s not a major allergen,” he said. “Most symptoms are caused by hardwood pollens. We’re not seeing a lot of grass pollens right now, but we will in few weeks. Weed pollens are predominantly in the fall. Molds can occur any time of year but usually during the humid summer.”
A visit to the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic’s website shows a daily pollen count — the average number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air. On Friday, the tree pollen count was extremely high, the grass pollen count was low and weed pollen count was high. The total pollen count was 7,809. Less than a week ago, the total pollen count was 4,151.