Heavy pollen attacking U.S. allergy sufferers with a vengeance

Posted Apr 9, 2010 by Joan Firstenberg
It's very hot, the humidity is very low, winds are gusty and little rainfall are all sending pollen soaring to record levels throughout the U.S in the past few days, and a bad allergy season promises to get worse before it gets better.
It's an unusual sight for this time of year. Cars turning a sickly, dusty green color, people having itchy eyes and drippy noses. Allergy season has descended on us. From Florida to Texas to Colorado to New York. Experts say it's the worst attack of pollen that they've seen in years. The words "pollen" and "allergy" are in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in several U.S. cities.
Dr. Mona Mangat, an allergy specialist in St. Petersburg, Florida says,
"It's wicked bad this year. We're just overwhelmed with patients right now. We're double- and triple-booked with new patients, trying to work people in because we know how much people are suffering."
The Associated Press reports that for some of us, the influx of pollen may mean an itchy nose, or a sore throat. But for others, it can be very dangerous. For example, take 5-year-old Sam Wilson of St. Petersburg. When the pollen is bad, his eyes water and itch, he can't breathe through his nose and his throat burns. His mother gives him Claritin in the morning, and then Nasonex and Benadryl at night so he can sleep. The child also has to get four allergy shots every week. The sidewalks of his neighborhood streets are covered with brown ugly mounds of oak tree pollen.
In many places in the Southeast part of the U.S., oak trees are to blame. But weather experts say unseasonably cold winters bring on lots of pollen. And high winds in many areas also spread the pollen around.
Angel Waldron, a spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, says allergy seasons have been getting longer over the years. She's expecting six to eight weeks of suffering this year in some areas.
"When your car is green when you wake up in the morning, it's shocking,"
Waldron's group makes up a list every year of the most pollen-plagued areas to live for allergy and asthma sufferers. On top of the list is Knoxville, Tenn., followed by Louisville, Ky.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dayton, Ohio; and Charlotte, N.C. Waldron says they do the tests carefully....
"We rank them based on pollen counts, number of medicines used, both prescription and over the counter, and number of specialists in the area."
There's good news for sufferers of tree pollen, which is expected to subside in a few weeks. But experts say that won't let everyone out of the woods, since grass and weed allergies stage their rise in the summer months.