Spring is finally here. Although making its appearance a little late this year, it brought plenty of rain, a little warmth, beautiful landscapes and a tremendous amount of pollen.
A 2012 study done by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found Louisville a city residing 122 miles north of Bowling Green, to be the worst city in the United States for people suffering with allergies. A previous study found that in 2011 the top two cities that had worse than average pollen counts were Knoxville, topping the chart, and Louisville, coming in a close second. The median sore regarding pollen averages to about 300 grains per cubic meter of air. Both Knoxville and Louisville greatly exceeded this average.
Bowling Green, although surrounded with places that top the charts, has allergy concerns of its own. According to The Weather Channel, this week alone we are expected to see “very high” pollen counts and it doesn’t look like they will be settling anytime soon.
Megan Johnson, a sophomore at WKU, is from Louisvilleand has experienced first hand exactly how bad allergies can get.
“I’ve lived in the Ohio River Valley for almost my entire life. I can tell a significant difference in how bad my allergies are if I am in Bowling Green versus Louisville,” she said. “In Bowling Green they aren’t as bad, but as soon as I go home, even for just a weekend, I can feel immediate sinus pressure. My eyes get itchy and I have a consistent headache until I’m back in Bowling Green. It’s crazy because you don’t realize how bad your allergies are until you go to a place that actually allows you to breathe.”
In order to understand why the pollen counts are so high, we must first understand the basics. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) states that all plants produce pollen grains. Pollen grains are the only way that plants can undergo fertilization, thus they need to be moved from one plant to the next by either insects or wind.
The pollen grains that rely on wind come from plants that do not have flowers such as trees and grasses. These types of pollen are the ones that cause our allergies. Areas with high amounts of pollen producing trees, such as Oak, Beech, Cottonwood and many more, will have higher pollen activity.
If you live in places with high amounts of pollen, like Kentucky, it is hard to avoid it. When you breathe in, pollen enters through your nasal and throat passages where you are then exposed to it internally.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), if you are allergic to pollen, you will experience things such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat, hives, itchy eyelids, coughing and/or trouble breathing.
“I’ve been to the doctor so many times for my allergies and they always give me the same thing—some sort of allergy medication that is stronger that the over the counter stuff. Usually, I take ibuprofen to help calm my head a little bit and I personally have found that Allegra-D helps relieve some of the sinus pressure,” Johnson said.
In order to take steps to limit your contact with pollen, the ACAAI advises that you try to cut down on outdoor activity when pollen counts are high, and replace your air filters in your car and in your air conditioner. You may even want to move to a new area if allergies prove too difficult to handle here, as pollen counts differ across the United States. If your allergy symptoms are extreme and you are unable to find a happy medium, you should contact a doctor.
Although pollen grains are too small individually to see with the naked eye, next time you open your door to a yellow fog, you will know exactly what’s coming. Spring has just sprung, and unfortunately, so has the pollen invasion.