Pollen, pollen everywhere

By Ed Brock

The spring pollen season has just begun and already Marisha Williams of Forest Park is in pain.

"It hurts. It hurts real bad," 30-year-old Williams said in a choked voice.

Williams, an aspiring biology student, was entering the Clayton County Headquarters Library on Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro to research the microscopic spores that have tormented her since she was 2 years old.

"I've tried everything. The doctors have tried everything," Williams said.

Walking up the steps of the library right behind Williams, Moses King of Jonesboro was completely unconcerned about the coming of pollen season.

"I am a country raised person," King said. "I found that since I was exposed to it early in life I don't have a problem with it."

He doesn't even care about the yellow pine pollen that will soon coat his car.

"I guess that problem's more for materialistic people," King said.

Already pollen counts are in the 300 and 500 particles per cubic meter, said allergist Dr. Frank McCafferty, bringing itching eyes, tearing, sneezing and even rashes in some cases.

"We're going to see a typical Georgia pollen season with really high pollen counts over the next four to six weeks," McCafferty said.

Unfortunately, a typical Georgia spring is also "typically awful," McCafferty said.

Flowering trees like oak, hickory and pecan are the problem right now.

"People (the makeup of their noses) filter out yellow pine pollen," McCafferty said. "Although it looks terrible, generally people aren't allergic to that. They're actually allergic to the stuff that you can't see."

April is the peak season for many types of pollen, said Winston Eason, an agent with the University of Georgia Extension Service for Clayton County.

"If you're looking to schedule events outside and you're allergic you may want to avoid April," Eason said.

Eason said the daily pollen counts available at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic Web site, www.atlallergy.com, are usually fairly accurate. The pollen count for Friday was 273 according to the Web site. On March 5 the count was 529.

Eason said anything over 120 is extremely high.

There will be no relief after the tree pollen clears, McCafferty said, because then the grass pollen season will begin.

People should see an allergist when over the counter medication fails to help them, McCafferty said. And the impact of allergies should not be underestimated. Pollen allergies can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration and sleeping problems.

"So a lot of these people are really miserable and they're miserable throughout the year," McCafferty said.

High pollen counts aren't bad news for everybody, said Eason who also oversees the extension service's beekeeping program.

"As beekeepers, it's really great for us," Eason said, adding that pollen is a food source for bees. "The bees can't function without pollen and nectar."