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Pesky pollen coats the water, air, everywhere
In an often unpleasant springtime tradition, yellow pine tree pollen is coating the water in coves of Lake Lanier, such as this one at West Bank Park in eastern Forsyth County. Spring allergy season typically lasts for about six weeks, from mid-March to May. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH COUNTY — Your vision is not messed up. Those actually are clouds of yellow pollen swirling in the air.

But here’s the thing. That’s not what’s causing annual springtime bouts of sneezing and sinus pressure. Though it doesn’t bode well for cars.

“The pine pollen is the yellow. And, luckily, it’s so big that you can’t inhale it into your respiratory system,” said Jim Morrow, owner of Morrow Family Medicine in Cumming. “But that’s a signal that other trees’ pollen is in the air.”

Spring allergy season, which is caused by pollen from trees being released into the air to fertilize other plants of the same species, typically lasts for about six weeks, from mid-March to May.

“This is one of the worst places in the country for pollen and allergies … There’s always some season, whether it’s going from trees, to grass, to flowering plants to ragweed season,” Morrow said.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, most of the pollens that cause allergic reactions — known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis — come from trees, weeds and grasses.

Symptoms include a runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy nose, eyes, mouth and ears, red and watery eyes and swelling around the eyes.

Luckily, Morrow said, there are ways to help combat allergy symptoms that are easy to find at any drug store.

“There are very good antihistamines that you can get over the counter now, which used to be prescription,” he said. “They work pretty well. But when the pollen count is 8,000, not much of anything works well.”

Morrow said when pollen is at its worst, try to avoid being around it.

“Keep the windows up in your home, as much as it’s nice to have fresh air coming inside,” he said. “Ride in the car with the windows closed.”

Start taking antihistamines as soon as the season looms, he said.

“If you’re just miserable and your eyes are watering and you’re sneezing and coughing, see a doctor,” Morrow said. “There are things a doctor can do … you can’t do over the counter, or they can give you advice on how to take the over-the-counter medicine that can help make a difference for you.”

Allergists can test what specific pollens patients are allergic to and administer a shot to desensitize them and help reduce the effects.

For example, some people are allergic only to oak trees or Bermuda grass and nothing else, Morrow said.

Another key to staying ahead of allergies is to stay hydrated.

“Almost to a person, people are not drinking as much water as they need to,” he said. “Your body works better if you’re well hydrated.”