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Columbus area allergy sufferers cope with pollen season

A minivan parked on Broadway downtown bore the signs of someone having a laugh at the high levels of pollen in the area.
A minivan parked on Broadway downtown bore the signs of someone having a laugh at the high levels of pollen in the area. jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com

His nose knows.

During the February warm spell, Omari Brooks’ eyes got puffy and his sinuses hurt. Then colder weather returned and he got relief.Then it warmed up again and his symptoms returned.

“People say you get sicker the older you get,” joked Brooks, a 30-year-old who has suffered from allergy symptoms for about 18 months.The pollen count today is expected to be 10.8 and 11.7 on Thursday, according to Pollen.com. It is based on the average number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air. The grains come from trees, grasses, weeds and molds. The South, and west into Colorado and New Mexico, are currently at the highest level, according to Tuesday’s Pollen.com national map.

“It’s that time of year,” said Dr. Robert Chrzanowski, who practices at the Allergy Clinic at Brookstone. “People are suffering, but fortunately, it’s only about 15-20 percent of the public.”

The microscopic pollen is the most potent for allergy sufferers, not the stuff you can see like pine pollen, he said.

Chrzanowski became an allergy doctor because he also suffers from allergies. Originally from the northeast, Chrzanowski’s allergies started showing up earlier in the spring when he moved south in 1983 and then to Columbus in 1996.

“I’ve had allergies all my life,” he said.

Sufferers fall into one of three categories: mild, mild-moderate and persistent. Chrzanowski said people with mild allergies typically take over-the-counter medicines, while persistent patients need regular medication, such as steroids or even allergy shots.“(The shots) can change part of your immune system,” he said.

In his practice, he advises chronic allergy sufferers to start treatment before the season starts. And to practice common sense. “Don’t sleep with your windows open or drive with your window down. Or if you’re doing yard work, wear gloves; and don’t rub your face with your hands,” Chrzanowski said.

Brooks said he treats his symptoms with over-the-counter remedies and by consuming honey grown locally. “I put it in my tea,” he said.

Probably like most people in the area, biologist Julie Ballenger, Ph.D., started noticing heavy coats of pollen last weekend.

“Everything is flowering at once,” said Ballenger, who heads the biology department at Columbus State University. “I think it was Saturday or Sunday and I noticed everything was covered. The top of our hot tub was completely covered.

“The pine trees are dumping their pollen,” she added.

Maples, oaks and sweet gums are adding to the mix.

“It’s really active right now,” said Ballenger, who’s also a botanist.

At least in the short term, there’s hope. Laura Belanger, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga., said rain will move into the state late today and Thursday. Heavier rain is in the forecast for Sunday. In addition to washing some of the pollen away, cooler temperatures toward week’s end should offer relief to those with allergies, she said.

“With a (cold) front and windy conditions, that can help clear out some of the pollen,” Belanger said.

Allison Kennedy, 706-576-6237

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