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Pollen pains? Here are a few answers
040207 POLLEN
Georgia Southern biology student Chris Smith, 20, braves the pollen-rich environment of the Georgia Southern Botanical Gardens Monday as she collects insect specimens with a butterfly net for her entomology class. Smith says she had to take allergy medicine or she would turn red and blow up like a balloon.
The evidence is all over our vehicles  - and in our noses and lungs. We're coughing and sneezing, with watery eyes and stuffy noses, and the culprit is pollen.
    More specifically, tree pollen, said Carolyn Altman, education director for the Georgia Southern University Botanical Gardens.
    "What's in the air is tree pollen," she said. "That's what's making us all sneeze."
    While pine pollen is most noticeable with its pastel yellow color, it's the oak, sweet gum, beech and sycamore that's giving us fits. An early spring that came without normal cold weather in February meant pollen arrived early.
    "The pollen is here," Kim Coder, a forester with the University of Georgia Extension Service, said in a press release from the university on Internet web site "We're running 10 to 14 days ahead of normal."
    Warmer February temperatures did not provide the cold snaps that usually slow flower production in trees, he said. "The pines, which produce the most visible pollen, are a bit behind, so their pollen season may be extended," he said. "Those trees that cause the most allergy problems -- oak, walnut or hickory -- they're out and should be over with soon."
    "It will be better after it rains," Altman said.
    If a person must be outside during the days when the pollen count is so high, it is a good idea to shower when coming inside and "try not to rub your eyes," she said.
    Monday's pollen count in Statesboro was "748 on a scale where 120 is considered extremely high," she said. "Atlanta almost set a record last week" for high pollen count.
    According to Internet web site, a high pollen count more severely affects people sensitive to the pollen. The web site also predicted Statesboro and surrounding areas may receive rainfall today and Wednesday, which will help remove the pollen from the air.
    Information from the site also recommended staying inside if possible, and using home air cleaning devices during peak pollen times.
    Medication and allergy shots are also helpful.
    Victor Voiselle, a local pharmacist, said he has seen a significant increase in allergy medicine prescribed not only by allergy specialists but general practitioners as well.
    People have also asked for products like Claritin, the brand name for loratidine, and "higher doses of Benadryl," a popular antihistamine. Voiselle said he has had to warn people about taking higher doses of the medicine, which causes drowsiness.
    The pollen is hard on people who suffer from allergies, but it can also cause damage to your car, Coder said.
    "You don't want pollen to build up on painted surfaces," he said. "It can damage the paint surface, because it has a good amount of nitrogen in it, and bacteria and fungi can consume it if it piles up."
    Bacteria and fungi produce organic acids that can etch painted surfaces, and the grit of the pollen can also scratch the surface. Coder recommends rinsing your car with water often during the pollen season.
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