Local allergist talks pollen predictions, advice on how to handle allergies

Justine Lookenott

The Weather Channel predicts the risk of allergy symptoms to be jumping back to “high” on April 11Image by Getty Images

(Forsyth County, GA) If you have been sneezing extra hard these past few weeks, you’re not alone. Pollen counts have been climbing to high levels with yesterday’s count at 4557, according to Atlanta Allergy & Asthma.

While the recent rainfall has brought some relief to allergy sufferers, the Weather Channel predicts the risk of allergy symptoms to be jumping back to “high” on April 11.

Forsyth County allergist Dr. Thomas Chacko, MD from the Chacko Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center, agrees with the forecast. He said the pollen count will probably be higher in the next few weeks depending on the weather.

“I do not think we passed the worst of the pollen season,” Chacko said. “I think over the next two weeks we will likely see the numbers in the thousands. They were more so in the hundreds previously but I do think for the first one or two weeks of April and probably much of April we will see much higher pollen numbers.”

Chacko said his number of allergy patients slightly grows every year, while others have noticed their allergies have been worse this year.

Julie Stewart, a mother of two children, is among the group suffering worse allergies this year.

“My two-year-old daughter and I have suffered from allergies more this year than ever before,” Stewart said. “After spending one day at the park, we will pay the price by sneezing for several days afterwards.”

The pollen count calendar from Atlanta Allergy & AsthmaImage by Atlanta Allergy & Asthma

A March 29 article from The Washington Post cited a recent study stating that over the past three decades, the pollen season has grown to include an extra 20 days with concentrations increased by 21 percent. The most affected regions were the Midwest and Southeast. The study, which was from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), blamed climate change as the culprit.

Chacko said he thinks it would be hard to know for sure if climate change is to blame for the rising number of patients. The allergist said the pollen season mostly depends on the weather and how much rain there is.

Narrowing down the cause for the more severe season as compared to last year is also muddled with other factors.

“It is hard to say because last year, even though the pollen counts were relatively high, people were indoors and were wearing masks, so people were not as symptomatic,” Chacko said. “This year, I think it is likely people will be outdoors more and the pollen will start later. So, I think it will be more severe than last year.”

The Weather Channel's 15 day allergy forecastImage by The Weather Channel

He offers the following tips on dealing with allergies:

  • Stay indoors when the wind is high
  • Be more selective of when you choose to go outside. Pollen counts are higher in the later afternoon. If daily runs for you are usually around that time, consider going out in the morning instead when the pollen is less severe.
  • The tip Chacko said his patients find the most helpful is to do saline rinses to clean your nose. The process mechanically removes both mucus and pollen and is one of the best medicines for pollen season, according to Chacko.
  • If even that does not help, Chacko suggests over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroids.

For those who find themselves dreading allergy season, Chacko suggests seeing an allergist to help relieve the symptoms.

“There is no need to suffer,” Chacko said. “We have been indoors so much over the past two years and now finally the weather is nice and you should be outside and just see an allergist to make sure they would be able to help you with that.”

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at justine.lookenott@newsbreak.com.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA

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