Allergies thrive in the spring

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

Don't blame that fine yellow haze of pollen on the hood of your car for your itchy, watery eyes. According to Dr. George Burkhardt, an ear, nose and throat doctor in Andalusia, that yellow powder is pine pollen, and probably not the cause of your allergy aggravation.

"Pine pollen is usually not a serious problem unless you work or live right under a pine tree," said Burkhardt. "It falls. It's those other pollens that drift that cause the problems."

Those other pollens include grass, oak, and ragweed - three of the main perpetrators in this region, which seems to have more than its fair share of perpetrators.

"I've always said that instead of calling this the 'Bible Belt' we should call it the 'Allergy belt,'" said Burkhardt. "Spring and fall are the worst times."

According to Burkhardt, constant exposure to the allergen does not get the body "used to it." In fact - just the opposite.

"The more exposure you get to something, the more likely you are to become allergic to it," he said.

Unlike some allergies, such as those to strawberries or bee stings, which can cause a severe physical reaction, anaphylactic shock and even death, the pollen allergies that herald spring are rarely serious.

"Most people have mild allergies," he said.

The symptoms indicate the presence of the allergy, as opposed to a cold virus. Allergy sniffles produce a clear discharge and no fever, while cold symptoms usually include yellowish or greenish discharge and some fever.

"There's a lot we don't know about allergies," said Burkhardt, who said that he knows of some doctors in the field who refer to it as "more of an art than a science."

Trying to keep control over the allergies while the pollen drifts through the season means staying indoors, according to Burkhardt, who added that surgical masks or dampened bandannas worn over the mouth and nose can also filter out much of the inhalant allergen.

"Or - you can move to Arizona," he said.

But, he warned, even that might not be a solution, since a person who is allergic has the propensity to develop an allergic reaction to anything they contact.