Record-setting pollen cripples allergy sufferers

Every year, Georgia springs bring beautiful flowers and trees. But this year, they are (literally) breathtaking.

Sophomore Ashleigh Baker knows all too well the consequences of merely stepping outside during March and April. “I’ve had asthma and pollen allergies my whole life. The pollen doesn’t affect my asthma, but it makes my allergies horrible,” she said. “[When I walk outside], my eyes turn red, I sneeze, and my nose runs or gets stuffy.”

2012 has been a particularly difficult year for Georgians allergic to pollen to deal with; according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, the pollen count on March 20, 2012 was 9,369 particles per cubic meter, breaking the previous record of 6,013, set on April 12, 1999, by more than three thousand.

The obvious yellow film of pollen that appears on outside surfaces is generally not harmful. “Remember, it’s the pollens you don’t see, not the yellow pine pollen that you do see that will cause symptoms [for most allergy sufferers],” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Karen Minton said. “Pine pollen is a larger pollen than the others, and as a rule, doesn’t cause the problems that the other tiny pollens cause.”

Although Baker previously to use an inhaler for her asthma, “I still haven’t found a medication that’s strong enough to control my allergies,” she said.

Some asthmatics, like Baker, were born with their condition, but, according to the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, “Approximately 80 percent of all asthma in children and half of all asthma in adults is caused by allergies.”