Tree pollen causes plenty of problems


LILBURN — For Sing Chhay, the thick, green film on her car is a warning sign things are going to get worse. Her itchy eyes will get more itchy, her runny nose will get more runny and soon the 17-year-old Norcross resident will start getting headaches.

For Chhay and others like her, the symptoms are indicative of this time of year when Georgia’s pollen season heads into full bloom. And though things are better since she added allergy shots to her over-the-counter medication, the native Georgian says she is more than inconvenienced by the rising pollen count.

“I would sit in school and it would really bother me, so much so that I couldn’t concentrate,” she said.

Wednesday’s pollen count was 2,091, according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. Anything above 120 is considered extremely high.

The majority of the pollen is from oak, sweet gum, mulberry and birch trees and though it is hard to imagine, things could get worse, said Dr. Kathleen Sheerin, who works in the Lawrenceville branch of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic.
“The tree pollen is in full force,” Sheerin said. “I expect it will peak in about a week.”

Normally, the peak pollen season comes in the first couple of weeks in April but heavy rains and cool weather have helped keep the particle count low, Sheerin said. Without moderate rainfall, high pollen counts will continue to choke metro Atlantans as temperatures heat up. That means even people who don’t have allergies could suffer.

“In Georgia, it is because we have so many trees,” Sheerin said. “It is a place where we pay for our beauty.” Relief from tree pollen should come sometime this month, but grass and weed pollens will arrive in April and last through June, she said.

Using your air conditioner, exercising indoors and avoiding use of a sunroof or convertible are ways to avoid exposure, but if you love the outdoors, Dr. Keith Lenchner, an allergist with the Gwinnett Clinic, recommends trying an over-the-counter antihistamine or visiting a doctor for prescription eye drops or nasal spray.

“It affects people’s quality of life,” he said. “They have to take days off of work and school.”