March Madness: It's Pollen Season in Southern Louisiana


It's March Madness for allergy sufferers as many folks living in New Orleans, Hammond and Southern Louisiana can firmly attest. According to the 2014 Asthma Capitals study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Baton Rouge is ranked number 3 and New Orleans is ranked number 18. Why? The biggest culprit is the very mild winters and high humidity year round. What this means is that dust, dust mites and molds are a year-round problem and to compound the issue, as our winters are so mild, pollen becomes a serious issue for those people at risk.

Of the many factors that can cause an allergy, pollen is one of the most common. Currently, Southern Louisiana is entering tree pollen season. Elm and cedar pollen are already in the air and oak pollen is soon to follow. In late March and April, pecan tree pollen will express even more yellow powder into the air. For those who are highly allergic, the misery is not over in March since grass pollen season begins in April and as that season comes to a close in September, ragweed pollen begins to emerge and affects many.

What is pollen?

Pollen is microscopic particles that some plants create to reproduce. Some plants use the pollen they produce from their own flowers to fertilize themselves. Other plants, like ragweed, require cross-pollination to reproduce. Cross-pollination means that the tiny particles are transferred from the flower of one plant to another plant of the same species. Some plants are cross pollinated by insects and some birds while other plants utilize wind transport. The goal is for the pollen to blow around and eventually land on the female organs of flowers, pollinate them and then produce seeds. Unfortunately for those who have pollen allergies, some types of pollen can travel great distances once airborne. For example, ragweed pollen can travel hundreds of miles via the wind and trigger allergic reactions in people that may live far from the source. The fact that so much pollen is released into the air at this time of year makes avoidance almost impossible for people who are allergic.

What are the symptoms of pollen allergies?

The symptoms of pollen allergies are similar to those who suffer from mold allergies and include runny or stuffy nose; itchy eyes, throat or inner ears; swollen eyelids; sneezing; coughing; wheezing or trouble breathing; and hives.

Are there any ways to reduce exposure to pollen?

Because of the fact that some pollens can travel so far, avoidance is difficult. However, some tips to help minimize exposure are listed below:

  • Keep car and home windows closed.

  • Wear a particle mask when you perform tasks like mowing the lawn or raking.

  • Clean and replace air conditioner filters often.

  • Avoid hanging out clothes to dry outside because they can collect pollen.

  • Minimize early morning outdoor activity when pollen is usually emitted.

  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is high and on windy days.

  • Wear sunglasses to prevent pollen entering the eyes.

  • Shower and wash your hair before bed to prevent tracking pollen into your room.

  • If you have pets that go outdoors, remember to bathe them regularly so that they do not bring pollen home.

  • Monitor pollen counts. A pollen count is a measure of how much pollen is in the air. This count represents the concentration of all the pollen (or of one particular type) in the air in a certain area at a specific time. You can check our local pollen count by visiting the home page of our website.

If these measures do not reduce your symptoms, you should consult with a qualified allergist and discuss strategies to mitigate symptoms. These strategies may include medications; allergy shots (also called immunotherapy). Shots have been shown to reduce symptoms in over 70% of patients with seasonal allergies).

If you are having allergy symptoms, we are here to help. Please contact either office to setup an appointment.

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