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That layer of green powder blanketing your car signals the annual springtime onslaught of pollen in the Upstate and the allergies it triggers.

The pollen count was high on Wednesday and is forecast to be high at least through Sunday, according to pollen.com, a North Carolina health information and research company. 

Trees are the current culprit sending out pollen as part of their annual reproductive cycle.

And as spring unfolds, it's keeping allergists occupied.

“We have been very busy,” said Dr. Emil Sarmiento of the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville.

“It started really strong in February, and then the rain came and ... brought down the pollen count,” he said.

“But once the weather settled, the pollen count went up," he added. "And all that water was good for the trees, which start pollinating. We’re getting the vengeance of the trees now.”

Mold spores have also been a problem because of all the rain in recent months, he said.

So if you’ve got the tell-tale runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, what can you do?

Sarmiento offers these helpful tips:

1. Do what you can to avoid the pollen.

“Pollen counts are highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” he said. “So you should postpone your outdoor activities until after 5 p.m. or before 10 a.m.”

2. Stay clean

Because pollen sticks to the hair, eye lashes, clothes and skin, shower and wash your hair after coming in from outdoors and wash clothes with hot water making sure to machine dry them and not hang them outside, he said.

3. Stay covered

Wear a mask and/or sunglasses or goggles and gloves while gardening or mowing the lawn, he said, and close the windows in your home and car to keep the pollen out.

4. Take your medicine.

“There’s a lot of over-the-counter medication ...  that's available now, like Xyzal, and the generic, Levocetirizine,” he said. “It’s a 24-hour antihistamine. Some people may get sleepy ... so I tell people to take it at night.”

Nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex, and their generic counterparts, can help congestion and inflammation and are now affordable over-the-counter options as well, he said.

“But don’t overuse it,” he said. “If it says to take it once a day, take it once a day."

There are new eye drops on the market as well, such as Pazeo, that will calm itchy eyes, he said.

5. Get evaluated

If you still have symptoms in spite of taking those medicines, Sarmiento advises seeing a doctor for an allergy evaluation to learn what substance or substances are triggering your allergies. Allergy shots are available for those people as well as pills for some allergens, he said.

And there are newer medications on the market for a subset of patients whose symptoms aren’t controlled by high-dose steroids and inhalers, he said. Those drugs reduce symptoms by affecting the body’s immune response to allergens.

The Upstate is in for several more months of troublesome pollen that will plague allergy sufferers.

“For people with allergic asthma, tree pollen is an important trigger,” he said. “We now have tree pollen until mid-May and then grass pollen.”

And of course, ragweed season starts in late summer.

For the daily pollen count, go to pollen.com.

 

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