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Tree pollen plaguing residents

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As small tree buds and blossoms coat tops of cars and line city streets, those eager for spring rejoice.

Those suffering from allergies sneeze. Or sniffle.

With the first warm spell of the year, trees finally release the pollen they had been holding for six or eight months, according to Dr. Chandra Kumar, the medical director at Charleston's Asthma and Allergy Center.

"Every year, we say it's worse," Kumar said. "But it's this time of year - it's the right time in the first few warm days where trees release pollen in much bigger quantities."

Maple and oak trees are shedding the most pollen right now, according to Kumar. Other trees will fall in line in the next three weeks or so.

"Pollen is regional - so certain places may be worse than others. They may be worse one year or another. But this is the time of year when it comes together. There's a lot of pollen in the air," he said. "You'll see that as we go along and get warmer days; it will peak, then eventually start tapering off."

Tree pollen is prominent in the first four to six weeks of spring and will begin to recede around mid-May. Grass pollen will increase in May and June and be prevalent the middle of July. Ragweed will spew forth toward the end of July.

Allergy sufferers are seeking relief. 

"We've seen a lot of allergy medicine," said Jamie Ratliff, a technician at Fruth Pharmacy. "No major problems yet, but at this time of the year we see a lot of allergy prescriptions."

Different remedies work for different people, Kumar said.

"For a non-drowsy, over-the-counter medication, Claritin works reasonably well. If that doesn't work for you, nasal sprays can be more effective and work better. If it's for short-term relief, that's good enough," Kumar said.

"But if it's repeated and disabling, you need to find out which pollen you're allergic to and become desensitized with medicine or drops. So, first probably allergy spray, then allergy shots. All of these can work well; it just depends on how severe the symptom are."

Kumar said most people do not suffer from only one allergy. Instead, it's possible to be allergic to tree pollen and something else, like dust mites.

"Something like dust mites could keep you sick all year round. Then, when tree pollen acts up on top of that, you have a lot more symptoms. The more things you're allergic to, the more symptoms," Kumar said.

For more information on the Asthma and Allergy Center, contact 304-343-4300.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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