Sunny spring days and rising temperatures come with a price – pollen.
And the levels Georgians will see this year depend on a battle between an abundance of vegetation blooming all at once and the cleaning nature of recent rainfall, said David Stooksbury, University of Georgia professor and former state climatologist.
While he expects the unsettled weather seen in the last few months to continue for the next several weeks, once warmer weather moves in and stays expect an explosion of blooming vegetation and higher pollen counts.
“Forecasting pollen severity is difficult because you’re talking about a biological system responding to the physical system of the atmosphere and it’s not a direct one-to-one correspondence,” he said. “We’ve had a cold winter and cold early spring, so we haven’t seen that big flush of flowers blooming yet that results in high pollen counts. ... The severity of pollen could go either way this spring.”
While weather experts might not have a clear idea on this season’s pollen counts, many should prepare for an onslaught of yellow powder that tends to blanket the region each year.
As an allergist at Allergy Partners of Georgia in Athens, Dean Firschein said he sees people struggle with allergies year round, but there’s always an influx of patients during the spring.
Because the Southeast tends to have a longer pollen season than other places in the U.S., working to avoid or tolerate pollen typically involves implementing simple lifestyle changes such as using air conditioning in the car and at home instead of driving with the windows down or keeping windows and doors open at the house, he said.
Other tips include leaving shoes and other outdoor clothing outside, wiping pets down with a wet cloth when they come inside and bathing them frequently, exercising early in the morning or after it rains when pollen counts are lower and drying clothes in a dryer instead of hanging them outside.
“A lot of people, especially children, will track pollen into the home on their clothing,” Firschein said. “We want people to enjoy the spring weather. We just don’t want them to bring it inside with them.”
For those with worse allergies, Firschein suggests over the counter medications like nasal steroid NasaCort and the prescription antihistamine Astepro.
If medications don’t help to relieve symptoms and allergies begin to interfere with daily lives, Firschein said patients might want to consider allergy shots.
“Allergy shots are the only treatment that treat the cause of the disease as opposed to blocking it,” he explained. “It’s natural, it’s not a drug, and many people report severe relief from allergies. The benefits of allergy shots also last for many years.”