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Experts: Prepare for allergy season

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A late winter will mean spring headaches -- literally.

By the beginning of next week, Gwinnett could be blanketed in pollen, said state climatologist David Stooksbury, a University of Georgia professor. Have your tissues handy.

"I'm expecting to see a very rough pollen season, and this week will kick it off," Stooksbury said.

The uncharacteristic cold -- with snow sighted just last week -- has left many plants that bloom in early March ready to finally open. At the same time, April flowers are ready to blossom.

"The bad news is everything will come out at once," he said. "I think we're going to see pollen numbers ramp up very quickly this week."

With temperatures in the 70s and 80s this week and no rain predicted to wash the pollen away, the yellow powder familiar to all Georgians will soon return, he said.

For Dr. Grace Chiang of Lawrenceville's Allergy and Asthma Center, the waiting room is starting to fill up, as people suffer from symptoms of pear, pine, oak and birch pollen allergies.

"I expect this pollen season will impact people significantly," she said.

In 2006, hay fever caused 12 million physician visits, and Chiang said the trend is on the rise.

She said 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children have seasonal allergies.

In addition to medication and possibly allergy shots for long-term care, Chiang recommended avoiding going outside during early morning hours, when pollen counts tend to be higher. Another way to prevent the sniffles, she said, is to shower and change clothes after you have been outside.