Pollen counts linger in southwest Georgia

Dr. Christopher Mann

Dr. Christopher Mann

ALBANY -- Most everyone knows our reputation -- pollen capitol of the world according to some. To make things worse, our pollen count is higher than usual for the time of year -- especially for certain offenders.

Tracy Bridges, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Clinics of GA PC, says that ragweed is a particular problem in the area this fall, but can only speculate as the reason for it.

"Ragweed is showing up on our counts for longer than I've ever seen it," Bridges said, "and we don't really understand why. We believe the drought we had this summer may have had a lot to do with it."

According to Bridges, the weed may have just gotten a late start, and found a better foothold with the rains coming later, so the pollen lingers still. Pigweed and bahia grass are troublesome, too, Bridges said. According to Bridges, pigweed grows in a lot of environments, but is prevalent in cotton fields.

"It's become resistant to Roundup and the other herbicides," Bridges said. "You can tell that when you see (the workers) out on the ground pulling it out."

For those with sensitivities to seasonal allergies, Bridges recommends not waiting to begin their treatments, usually a daily mild nasal spray or tablet.

"If you suffer in the spring, start your medicine around Valentines day," said Bridges. "If the pollen nails you in the fall, start it when the school buses start to run. It's much more effective to get an early start on your problem."

Bridges believes in "nasal irrigation" as treatment for mild sinus problems. The neti pot is good, he says, but prefers the soft squeeze bottles. Even when a patient is on steroid sprays, he has them irrigate their nasal passages and sinuses before using them, he says.

As a precaution, Bridges suggest that bottled, filtered or distilled water be used to prevent possible infection to the sinuses.

For those who suffer greatly, more heroic measure could be called required. The clinic where Bridges practices does testing of allergens on a day-to-day basis, he says, for the purpose of identifying those specific allergens abusing the individual. Once identified, a course of avoidance can be determined. If that should be impractical then a course of desensitization is called for. Over the course of a year or more, small amounts of the specific allergen is introduced to the patients to calm their immune systems.

Dr. Christopher Mann, an Albany ear, nose and throat specialist, has a similar outlook on allergies and their treatment. He describes his suggested course of action as a "stair step."

"Neti pots and other irrigation systems are very good as a first step," Mann said. "It may prevent you from having to take any other type of treatment."

According to Mann, if nasal "stuffiness" presents a problem in using the irrigation, over the counter clearing like Afrin can be used. He cautions not to use them if you have high blood pressure or any other medical condition indicated by product. He warns also not use the spray more two or three days because of the risk of addiction.

The best "second step," according to Mann, is a "topical steroid" spray. Mann says that mild steroids are typically better than antihistamines. More serious problems may require oral steroids or injections, Mann said.

Should the previous steps be ineffective, Mann suggests allergy testing and possible desensitizing injections as a practical third step.

Finally, should all else fail, surgery can be performed to broaden nasal and sinus pathways.

Mann described a fairly noninvasive system for correction which involves insertion of balloons into the sinus cavities, which would then be inflated to widen specific canals.