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The not-so-secret life of pollen: Pollen woes start up early thanks to warm winter

By Christie Pool, Staff Writer

            On Monday morning I received an email from saying on that day, February 27th, the allergy alert level in Pickens County would be “high” at 9.7. Top allergens now, it noted, are alder, juniper, and elm. By Tuesday, expected it to rise to a 10. And on Wednesday, when I’m outside delivering papers, it’s expected to hit 10.7 (out of a high of 12). Great.

            Personally, I didn’t need an email to tell me that allergy season is already upon us. I’ve been feeling it in my scratchy eyes, nose and throat for a couple of weeks now.

            According to the National Allergy Forecast, 14 percent of the country is in low-medium status. It is, of course, worse for us southerners. Coming in at the top of “today’s worst cities” for allergy sufferers on Monday, were the southern cities of New Orleans, Louisiana; Laredo, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Orlando, Florida and Shreveport, Louisiana. 

            While Jasper, Georgia may not appear on the top 10 list yet, it’s approaching. And like a good weather forecaster, my nose knows. 

            While many people may love the spring blooms of loropetalum and cherry trees  budding out following a cold, bleak and rainy winter, those blooms bring a bevy of  itchy noses, scratchy throats and watery eyes to us poor souls that have spring allergies. Not to mention what that yellow pine pollen will do to our cars in a few weeks. 

            Pollen hasn’t even waited for the official start of spring on March 20th to begin sending waves of a potential 67 million Americans to the drug store to try any combination of  nose drops, eye drops, and antihistamines to abate our suffering. 

            Georgia’s pollen season may peak in early to mid-April, but the arrival of tree pollens in Georgia starts early. Typically beginning in late February, the allergy season can stretch until June when grass and weed pollen add to the pollen counts. All of this means the pleasure we take in our perfect southern temperatures and weather for outdoor activities can be seriously curtailed.

            Runny noses, sore throats, coughing, headaches, and lots and lots of mucus ( to use a polite word) are what we have to look forward to. Those symptoms can be serious enough for some of us to literally curse at “fresh air.”

            If you are one of the relatively few folks who get by the spring allergy season unscathed, enjoy it and when you meet the rest of us out there with red, watery eyes, don’t run away from us because we look like one of the zombies from The Walking Dead. Just take pity and count your blessings you aren’t one of us. 

            Hayfever is such a cruel ailment. There should be nothing more joyous than spending time outdoors after being stuck inside all winter. Enjoying a picnic in the grass, eating spring delicacies and sleeping away the afternoon, reading a good book, or playing in a pickup game of basketball or pickleball. But for those of us who can’t take being outside inhaling all those fluorescent particles, it’s miserable. Sure we’d rather be out enjoying a relaxing day in the sun (or rain even) but that just turns into a tortuous experience, seen only through teary eyes and a perpetually runny nose.

            The pollencasters may be our only remaining friends at the end of this season – no one will talk to us because our eyes are streaming and our nostrils red from nose-blowing – even though we buy the Puffs Plus with Lotion. To our fellow sufferers, take heart and just remember – only a few more months of misery. 

            So while our allergies may put us among the worst places to live each spring, I’m not ready to jump ship and head to “today’s best cities” as cited by Aberdeen, SD; Williston, ND; Jamestown, ND; Fargo, ND; and Grand Forks, ND.

            Those places can have it easy from the pollen, I like Jasper.

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