Staff Photo: John Bohn Blooming deciduous trees are contributing to high pollen counts are recorded in Gwinnett County on Monday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — By the time pollen was visible on cars and outdoor furniture this week, allergy sufferers had likely already made a visit to their doctor.
A Gwinnett Medical Center-affiliated general internist said Tuesday that the high pollen counts reported this week were another sign of the arrival of the season, but not the first.
“A lot of it is starting to come from pines,” Dr. Spencer Rozin said of the visible pollen this week. “Oaks and Bradford Pears, they’re already bringing people in the office long before it’s on the cars. If it’s up on the cars, it’s in the thousands.”
That was verified this week by the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, which charts pollen counts in the area. For the first time this spring, pollen counts topped 2,000 particles per cubic meter of air with an “extremely high” tree pollen figure of 2,093 on Monday. Last week’s rains kept the figures low, especially on Friday when it was just five particles. Sunday’s count skyrocketed to 1,691, and by Tuesday, the pollen count reached 2,607.
Tree pollens, such as Oak, Birch, Sweetgum, Pine, Sycamore and Willow, are the sources, which could lead to a runny nose, postnasal drip, sneezing, congestion, coughing, and itchy and watery eyes, according to the clinic.
Rozin said to someone who may suffer from those symptoms should check with their doctor first, but generally over-the-counter antihistamines such as Claritin and Allegra are recommended, and air purifiers in bedrooms also help.
Rozin said he’s noticed an uptick in patients at his Lawrenceville practice, and “most people coming in earlier and having more significant symptoms.”
This time of year, Rozin said he checks specifically to distinguish between allergies and a sinus infection, which can be difficult.
“If there’s no colored secretions, and they say, ‘This is what I get every year,’ that’s easy to differentiate,” Rozin said.
A sinus infection typically consists of seven to 10 days of worsening systems, such as colored secretions, bad facial pains or a low-grade fever, he said. That’s when Rozin said he’s more concerned about a bacteria infection.
But if a person is an annual allergy sufferer, Rozin said he would start them on medications a week or two earlier.
While the season generally goes from April and May, this year’s allergy season came later than last year.
In March 2012, pollen counts topped 1,000 for 15 straight days, including a peak of 9,367 on March 20.
Lawrenceville weather enthusiast Jon Richards said his estimate is the area is about a week behind schedule partly because of cooler March temperatures.
Because temperatures hadn’t topped 80 degrees until Tuesday, Richards said pollen from Redbuds, Dogwoods, Azaleas and pines is coming out on schedule instead of all at once like it did last year when temperatures were 80 degrees or warmer for 11 days in March.
Richards said the six- to 10-day outlook shows a better-than-normal chance of above normal temperatures as 80-degree weather is expected.