Heavy pollen affecting allergy sufferers

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Along with spring comes the warm weather, blooming flowers, and that yellow coat of pollen on everything outdoors. Dr. John Ramey of the Allergy, Asthma, and Urticaria Centers says the culprit for many allergy sufferers' symptoms is the pollen.

"They'll get nasal stuffiness, runny nose, drainage down the back of the throat. Itchy, red watery eyes. Also people with asthma with tree pollen allergy will get increased coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness," Dr. Ramey said.

Dr. Ramey's office measures pollen counts right here in Charleston, and he says levels are consistently ranking a ten, on a zero to ten scale.

Med lab techs with the allergy center use a roto rod and pollen catcher to keep track of pollen counts in the area. The pollen is trapped on little rods. The rods are placed in slides, stained, and read under a microscope.

"Today we're seeing pine, and oak, lots of oak, grass, sweet gum, birch," med lab tech Susan Rahn said.

Dr. Ramey says knowing what's out there can eventually help them treat patients. For the Charleston area he expects tree pollen to stay high through April, and for most cases sufferers can find relief.

"Nasal allergies there's a lot of over the counter treatments. Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allergra all used to be prescription medicine and they are available over the counter now. Those are good treatments to try first," Dr. Ramey said.

He says for more severe cases there are prescription nasal sprays, eye drops, or allergy shots to desensitize the sufferer's symptoms.

Spring only marks the beginning of heavy pollen counts in the Lowcountry. Experts say after spring, grass pollen is heavy in summer, and weed pollen is heavy from late summer to fall.