Posted in Health, news

Pollen counts hitting record highs across the country

Above image from pollen.com

Report updated 3/16/17

High pollen counts are being reported throughout the country as allergy season came a little early this year. Record rainfall and warmer temperatures were the perfect recipe for fresh grass, weeds and flowers.

In Atlanta, for example, the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Center reported high pollen counts of 1289 in February that wouldn’t have usually been seen until mid March.

In Clark County Nevada, John Shaffer, News and Program Director for KDWN reports “UNLV monitors the pollen count for the county”. He continues, “Clark County’s pollen count is ‘massively’ high.”  And with temperatures reaching into the 80’s in the coming weeks, residents are sure to enjoy the outdoors, becoming exposed to the high counts.

Pollen counts can shift daily where, for example, tree pollen may be high along with grass pollen when ragweed is low, and then the next day all three can be high.

What is a pollen count? According to Pollen.com the count is calculated by using the concentration of grains of pollen in a cubic meter over a 24 hour period.

The counts are relative and observed for spikes.  The National Allergy Bureau of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (AAAAI) Aeroallergen Network, created this chart:

 

nab

Does warm weather make pollen counts worse?  Yes, it can.  More people tend to go outdoors when the weather warms up. Moreover pollen travels easier in dry, warm air than cold moist air.

Although every city differs in their landscaping and natural vegetation, there appear to be common offenders.

According to Healthline, the worst offenders are:

  • ragweed: throughout North America
  • mountain cedar: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas
  • ryegrass: throughout North America
  • maple: throughout North America
  • elm: throughout most of North America
  • mulberry: throughout the United States (but rare in Florida and desert regions of the country)
  • pecan: Southeastern United States
  • oak: throughout North America
  • pigweed/tumbleweed: throughout North America
  • Arizona cypress: Southwestern United States

Although olive trees get me every year in Southern Nevada, Healthline states the most bothersome tree pollens include:

  • alder
  • ash
  • beech
  • birch
  • box elder
  • cedar
  • cottonwood
  • date palm
  • elm
  • mulberry
  • hickory
  • juniper
  • oak
  • pecan
  • Phoenix palm
  • red maple
  • silver maple
  • sycamore
  • walnut
  • willow

and last year Healthline warned us grass pollens when we work in our yard. The worst offenders are:

  • Bermuda grass
  • Johnson grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • orchard grass
  • rye grass
  • sweet vernal grass
  • Timothy grass

According to WebMD , flowers to avoid include:

Amaranth (pigweed), chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, goldenrod, and ordinary sunflowers.

Notice how “dahlias” don’t seem to offend anyone….. 🙂

So the best way to deal with  allergies is to control them and prevent attacks.  Knowledge is the best weapon to fight allergy season so here are your questions answered:

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses.  One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder.  Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body.  IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood.  When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:

Sneezing

Coughing

Wheezing

Runny nose

Eye watering

Red Eyes

Itchy eyes

Itchy skin

Rash

Itchy throat

Fatigue

Congestion….. to name a few.

How do they differ from a cold?

Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies.  However they are different.

The common cold is caused by a virus.  When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy.  This does not occur with allergies.

Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear.  In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.

The same holds true with sputum.  During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light colored.  Thick mucous could be a sign of an infection.

An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy.  A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.

Allergies may persist or be cyclical.  Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.

Can allergies lead to a cold?

Yes and no.  Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over.    Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.

Are seasonal allergies dangerous?

As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack.  Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.

How can we prevent and treat allergies?

Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key.   We suggest the following:

  1.  Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts.  If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
  2. Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house.  Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
  3. Clean your air filters.  Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
  4. Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
  5. Close your car windows when you park.
  6. “Recirculate” the air in your car
  7. Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.  
  8. If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple weeks to reach therapeutic levels.

                                                                                                         LearnHealthSpanish.com

                                                                                                         Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

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Author:

Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Assistant Professor Touro University Nevada

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