Expert: Beware of pollen you can’t see

Published 9:12 am Saturday, March 26, 2011

Believe it or not, that thick yellow pollen coating everything these days may not be the cause of your seasonal allergies.

The pine pollen, most visible in the form of a thick, yellow dust coating everything from cars to sidewalks, is a hallmark of the spring season.

But an allergy specialist said it’s actually other pollens – ones less visable to the naked eye – that cause most people to suffer.

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“Most people are actually affected by the other pollens that are smaller and aren’t as noticeable, which can get into the respiratory tract more extensively and bother people more,” said Dr. Adina Kay Knigh, a board certified allergist at the Alabama Allergy and Asthma Center.. “The pine pollen is what people notice. It is a tree pollen, but usually we see the allergy more to other pollens, like the oak, the maple and other trees besides the pine, that tend to be more bothersome from an allergy perspective. You just don’t notice their pollen as much as you do the pine pollen.”

According to Knight, pollen season abuses our sinuses five months out of the year.

“Pollen season in Alabama actually starts in February before people start to see the pine pollen and it continues through May, but depends a lot upon rainfall patterns,” Knight said.

And right now, Pike County is under a “very high” pollen forecast, according to the Weather Channel’s online pollen count. The forecast cites pine, oak and sweetgum pollens as the most prevalent right now.

Knight said that following tree pollen season, the season for grass pollen starts to pick up, which lasts from May until July.

Suffers are not completely defenseless against the assault of the yellow powder.

“For over-the-counter medications, we usually recommend antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra,” Knight said. “People can also do the salt water washes, like the Neti Pot type of washes, or the salt water nose spray over-the-counter. If those measure are not adequate, then the prescription nose sprays are actually safer than the over-the-counter medicated nose sprays. So, there are prescription nose sprays that people can get from their doctor. If those measures aren’t adequate, then usually we start to think about things like allergy shots to retrain the body to leave the pollen alone.”

Dimple A. Gilbert, director of student health services at Troy University, said she’s been advising students to try their best to stay away from what aggravates their allergies the most.

“If you’re allergic to grass, then I wouldn’t be out trying to cut grass,” Gilbert said. “Also, keep your windows in your house down and use your air conditioning and just try and avoid whatever sets your allergies off.”

Gilbert said she’s not unfamiliar with students coming in trying to seek relief from their pesky allergies.

“We see this a lot every year this time of year,” Gilbert said. “We have a lot of cases where people have moved to this area that have never had these types of allergies before, then all of the sudden they develop allergies.”

Emily Allbritton, a sophomore communications major at Troy University, said she has problems echoed by many this time of year.

“I took my car in to get washed,” Allbritton said. “And, about an hour later it was covered in pollen again.”