Drought affecting allergies

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dry weather and drought conditions are affecting more than just crops – they’re sending people to the doctor’s office for allergy and sinus conditions.

Covington County has seen very little rainfall for 2010, receiving just 39 inches compared to the 61 inches this time last year.

Last month, the county only received 1.6 inches of rainfall.

Dr. Bob Williams, who has a family practice in Opp, said he’s seen a spike in allergy problems in South Alabama.

“I see more fall allergies than spring,” he said. “I think it’s partly because it’s so dry like this year.”

Williams said that the rain washes away the pollen, but since there hasn’t been much rain, there is more pollen out.

However, pollen isn’t the only culprit, Williams said. Dust is another allergen – specifically peanut dust.

“We also have people digging for peanuts, which causes allergies,” he said. “Another thing is people are outside doing their fall gardening.”

Still, Williams said it’s hard to tell specifically what allergen is causing the spike.

“Golden rods are in full bloom,” he said. “We also have ragweed, which is one of the causes.”

Common plant allergens include sagebrush, redroot pigweed, lamb’s quarters, goosefeet, tumbleweed, English plantain, timothy grass, Kentucky blue grass, Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, redtop grass, orchard grass, sweet vernal grass, perennial rye, salt grass, velvet grass, fescue, hardwood deciduous trees such as oak, ash, elm, birch, maple, alder and hazel as well as hickory, pecan, box and mountain cedars. Juniper, cedar, cypress and others are likely to cause allergies as well.

Williams said those who know they are prone to allergies, should take an antihistamine before going outdoors.

“Benadryl works fine, but it causes drowsiness in some,” he said. “Zyrtec works, too.”

Williams said allergy-sufferers should be sure to take the antihistamine at least a couple of hours prior to going outside.

“If you wait until after the allergies hit, it’s too late,” he said. “I recommend taking one the night before and another in the morning.”

In addition, Williams said those who work outside may prefer to wear a mask to help keep the dust and pollen away from their face.

The pollen forecast for today and Wednesday is low-medium, with the Tuesday pollen count sitting at 3.70 out of 12 and Wednesday at 3.40 out of 12.

A pollen count is the measure of the amount of pollen in the air, and is usually reported for mold spores and three types of pollen: grasses, trees and weeds.

The count includes grains of pollen per square meter of air collected over 24 hours.

As a general rule of thumb, a “low” pollen count means that only people extremely sensitive to pollen will experience symptoms.

A “medium” count means many people who are relatively sensitive to pollen will experience symptoms and a “high” count means most people with any sensitivity to pollen will experience symptoms.

Thursday the pollen count is expected to increase to 4.60 and upgrade to medium, according to Weather Underground.