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Pollen count skyrockets to 'extremely high' 2,722

Oscar Matarola who covers his face with a handkerchief uses a riding mower to cut the grass outside the Medical Center Professional Park on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville Thursday. According to the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic the pollen count has climbed to 2,722, on the Thursday, the highest of the season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Oscar Matarola who covers his face with a handkerchief uses a riding mower to cut the grass outside the Medical Center Professional Park on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville Thursday. According to the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic the pollen count has climbed to 2,722, on the Thursday, the highest of the season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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A cherry tree on Old Norcross Road in Lawrenceville contributes to the rise in pollen count on Thursday. According to the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic the pollen count has climbed to 2,722, on the Thursday, the highest of the season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Pollen collects on the hood and windshield of a vehicle in Lawrenceville Thursday. According to the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic the pollen count has climbed to 2,722, on the Thursday, the highest of the season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Petals from a cherry tree collect in the corner of a parking lot in Lawrenceville Thursday. According to the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic the pollen count has climbed to 2,722, on the Thursday, the highest of the season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

A severe winter has given way to the annual arrival of pollen this week in the Atlanta area several days ahead of last year’s season.

The pollen count on Thursday jumped to 2,722, according to the Atlanta Asthma & Allergy Clinic, nearly triple the number that was reported on Wednesday, 963, and the highest of the season.

Anything above 1,500 is considered “extremely high,” and the main contributors were trees, including cedar, oak, birch and sweetgum.

“Once it gets into this territory, we start getting lots of phone calls and people showing up who are miserable,” said Dr. Kevin Schaffer, who works at the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic Snellville office. “Since we’ve had some counts in the hundreds, that’s enough to get people uncomfortable. When they get in the thousands, people become miserable.”

Allergy sufferers typically visit Schaffer’s office in late March, and while this year’s season appears to be earlier than last year, it’s a bit later than many years, he said.

The clinic considers allergy season to start in mid-March and peak in mid-April.

Last year, the Atlanta area recorded its first count above 2,000 on April 8, the first of seven days above that mark.

While the clinic schedules appointments, the pollen has caused several patients to show up and wait to be worked in as the schedule allows and an allergist is available, Schaffer said.

Last month, allergy sufferers experienced an early start to the season as a pollen count of 944 was the highest count on March 10 in five years, according to the Atlanta Asthma & Allergy Clinic.

Trees were in the high range, 90 and above, as elm, cedar and maple were the major contributors.

Schaffer recommends allergy sufferers avoid what they’re allergic to, including closing windows and doors in homes and cars. After spending time outside, Schaffer said it’s best to come inside, take a shower, wash hair, change clothes and wipe off pets’ paws and fur.

The next step would be to take medications without a prescription, including Zyrtec, Tavist and Claritin, for example, and possibly eye drops.

If still uncomfortable, Schaffer said to see a doctor or allergy specialist.