For two consecutive days, the Atlanta-area pollen count has set all-time records. Monday broke the standing record with a count of 8,164 particles of pollen per cubic meter only to be shattered once again Tuesday with a pollen count measuring 9,369. The previous record, set April 12, 1999, stood at 6,013.
The visual effects of increased pollen are evident as a yellow mist can be seen dusting the landscape -- but the large, visible particles are most often not to blame. Dr. Bradley Goff, of Northwest Georgia E.N.T., explained most people blame their symptoms on the larger, visible pine pollen.
"One common misconception people have is that the pine pollen is what triggers their symptoms and that is not the case. The pine pollen is actually so big that it doesn't create much of a problem, it's the other stuff in the air that we don't see that's the problem," Goff said. "The [pine] pollens are so large that our nose actually filters those. So everybody blames pine for all these symptoms, and certainly it contributes, but it's not the main instigator. It's the oak and mulberry and all those others that you read about -- they're microscopic."
According to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, trees, including beech, birch, oak and pine, were the main pollens found Tuesday registering as "extremely high." One step below that, in the "high" range was grass pollen and weeds ranked last in the "moderate" pollen-count range.
"This is the worst time of the year, because you kind of get all three [allergens] although grasses haven't really gotten going yet -- this is primarily trees," Goff said. "Grasses will get going in another two to three weeks probably."
Extremely high pollen counts likely will remain until rains wash away older particles. A new batch of allergens, however, is just around the corner as grass pollens begin to increase further into the spring.
"Avoidance is the very best allergy treatment. ... The more allergens you're exposed to the worse your symptoms will be," Goff said. "There's lots they can do. Stay in for No. 1 -- don't open windows to your house, run your air conditioning so you're not exposing yourself to these things. Two, if you do happen to be outside, when you come in take a shower, wash your hair -- that pollen will get all over you.
"Everything you do is carrying pollens inside the house so you try to minimize your exposure as much as possible."
Goff also reminds allergy sufferers that pets can bring pollens inside the home.
Acknowledging that avoiding all contact with pollen is impossible this time of the year, Goff suggests allergy sufferers try over-the-counter medication if needed. His office recommends Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. Different medicines may work best for each individual. Additional relief may be found in over-the-counter nasal sprays or by consulting a physician for prescription allergy medication.