Sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny or stopped-up nose, headaches - these are all symptoms many customers of Ellerbe Pharmacy suffer with this time of year.
One need only park their car for a couple of hours anywhere in Richmond County to know pollen season is in full swing, and isn’t expected to let up until May.
“(Our customers) have all the good symptoms,” pharmacy owner Lynne McCaskill said.
It’s not only his customers who are feeling the effects of allergy season, though.
“Years ago, pollen never seemed to bother me, but now it has really started to get to me,” he said. “It seems like it gets worse and worse every year.”
To gain relief, many resort to over-the-counter medications.
“Most people use an antihistamine, and that seems to do the trick,” McCaskill said.
Common medications such as antihistamines and nasal decongestants can carry dangers for some patients with pre-existing conditions, though.
“If you have glaucoma, you have to be somewhat careful about taking antihistamines,” McCaskill said. “If you have high blood pressure, it can also be unsafe to take nasal decongestants. I always recommend that people check with their physicians if they have pretty high blood pressure before taking medications.”
They can also cause drowsiness in a perfectly healthy person.
How does one know if they suffer from a pollen allergy? The Web site www.allergyescape.com offers this advice.
“If you’re not certain what it is, that’s O.K., your nose will let you know,” the Web site reads. “... When we inhale pollen, the pollen particles act as irritants, causing mast cells in the nasal passages to release chemicals such as histamines. Allergic rhinitis can result, producing inflammation, increased mucous secretion, and a host of other symptoms that result from pollen allergy.”
The common name for allergic rhinitis is hay fever. The Centers for Disease Control estimates hay fever struck about 18 million American adults over the last year.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology suggests about twice that many, 35 million Americans, suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms.
The Weather Channel’s Web site, www.weather.com, has a way to track the pollen count in cities throughout North Carolina.
Monday morning, the pollen forecast, or pollencast, showed minimal weed activity and medium grass activity.
The greatest activity was coming from tree pollen.
The three most active types of trees were the birch, cedar and pine.
It also indicated Wednesday may be a good day to begin taking an allergy medication regimen, as the tree pollen count is expected to rise to “very high” that day.
The American Academy of Otolarynology, or head and neck surgery, offers some tips on how to avoid common allergens like pollen.
Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or cleaning house.
Change the air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems, and/or install an air purifier.
Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
Use antihistamines and decongestants as necessary and as tolerated.
Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.
However, despite the heaviest portion of the pollen season in North Carolina being March through May, the pollen just keeps coming all the way through summer and into the fall.
“I tend to have problems with the stuff in the fall,” McCaskill said. “That’s one of the worst times for me.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.