COLUMBIA, S.C. — A yellow haze of pollen descended on the Southeast in the past week, coating cars and porch furniture and making people miserable in one of the worst allergy seasons in years.
Doctors are telling people with stuffed-up noses and itchy, watery eyes to spend more time indoors if they can.
“Everybody who walks through the door, you can see it in their faces,” said Atlanta pharmacy owner Ira Katz, who is running low on medication to treat what he said is the worst allergy season of his 26 years in the business.
Atlanta’s pollen count hit 5,499 particles per cubic meter of air Monday, the highest so far this season and the fourth highest in the 12 years that the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic has been keeping records. In South Carolina, the pollen count hit 4,862, according to the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville.
A reading of 120 is considered extremely high in the Southeast.
A lack of rain is blamed for the high pollen count. Rain scrubs pollen from the air.
No relief in sight
The yellow dust — which is coming mostly from pine trees — is proving to be a gold mine for car washes, even though some are offering free repeat washes for cars that get covered again within 48 hours.
“Business has been good, very good,” said Steve Bell, assistant manager of Al’s Car Wash & Detail Shop in West Columbia.
Waiters at restaurants with outdoor seating spend their time between meals wiping down the furniture.
Atlanta has had only four rainy days this month. Most of the rain Columbia has gotten came during the first part of the month, before the pollen arrived.
“Unless we get some rain, people could be having symptoms for quite some time,” said Dr. Stanley Fineman, at the Atlanta allergy clinic.
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Learn how allergic reactions occurRelief might be days away. There is no rain in Atlanta’s forecast for at least a week.
Experts recommended allergy sufferers keep their outdoor activities to a minimum in the early morning, when pollen is at its worst.
Dr. Lisa Hutto, an allergy specialist, said wearing a mask when doing yard work and changing clothes and showering right away after coming inside can also help. And though it may be tempting, Hutto said people should not hose off porches or cars.
“Washing the pollen off could cause it to become airborne, and you could have more exposure,” she said. “Even if you hose off your porch or car, it’s just going to come back.”
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