Local pollen counts high, affect allergies

Published 12:02 am Thursday, March 22, 2012

A city employee cuts the grass Wednesday at the Veterans Memorial Park behind Andalusia City Hall.


With spring comes those April showers and May flowers, warmer weather and sunny days, and of course, pollen.

However, pollen doesn’t just add a yellow powder coat to cars though. It’s the culprit behind itchy watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and stuffy noses as allergies react to the airborne molecules.

According to pollen count tracking website Pollen.com, allergy symptoms affect more than 67 million Americans. The website defines allergies as “a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance – called an allergen – that causes the body’s immune system to overreact when defending itself.”

Pollen.com focuses on tracking pollen levels around the country and states that the levels for Covington County have consistently been high. Pollen count is a number that tracks the number of grains of pollen per cubic meter of air. It is ranked on a scale from low (0) to high (12). It’s tracked separately for the trees, grass species and weeds that produce it. With the number of people pollen allergies affect, it has become a staple in weather forecasts.

On Wednesday, the pollen count in Andalusia and Opp was at 11.4, and in Florala, 10.5.

Those figures are expected to decrease slightly throughout the week to 9.5 on Saturday in Andalusia and Opp and 10.1 in Florala, which means the county never drops from the “high” range.

Plant species that flower and specifically affect Covington County include elm and maple trees, and junipers, which are also known as “cedars.”

For local residents, there are many ways to combat allergy problems, said local ENT Dr. A. Agro.

“The old adage in allergy and immunology is that the best treatment is avoidance,” Agro said. “That is impossible in living normal life in lower Alabama when all bloomed. So, the idea is try to minimize contact with pollen by staying in temperature and climate regulated areas.

“Kids who have asthma should stay indoors or minimize playing outside,” he said. “For adults, avoidance, again, is almost impossible. But you can get pollen out by using saltwater nasal spray before it gets too far in the respiratory track. Problem with pollen is that the smaller pollen is breathed into the lungs. The bigger pollens get filtered out. That’s why it’s important to keep the nose clear as possible. It may sound old-fashioned, but it works.”

Agro said if medication is needed, one should choose an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin.

“You can get those with a built in decongestant, but only get that if your nose feels congested,” he said. “In my opinion, 80 percent of people can handle the peak pollen season with common sense and antihistamine.”