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Nothing to sneeze at ... yet

In Dale Jiles’ 29 years behind the counter at Chi-ches-ter’s Pharmacy, she’s seen her share of sniffling, sneezing and coughing customers.

But she’s never seen as many as this year.

“Let me tell you, this is the most ‘allergy-cold’ season I’ve ever seen,” Jiles said. “Everyone is coming in here.”

It will get worse before it gets better, as the true allergy season has yet to arrive, said Dr. David Plaxico of the Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Macon.

“There’s a lot going on right now. It’s the tail end of the cold and flu season, and people can (get) sinusitis and everything,” Plaxico said. “When it gets pretty and people get outdoors, they’re going to have problems.”

After an unusually cold winter, trees’ blooms and leaves are running about a month behind schedule.

The flowering trees such as Bradford pears, Japanese magnolias and dogwoods are not the culprits when it comes to allergies.

“It’s the ugly plants that don’t have flowers that have the airborne pollen,” Plaxico said. “The pretty ones are insect pollinating with butterflies and bees and things taking care of the pollination.”

The heavy pollinators that cover Middle Georgia in a yellow-green jacket of dust are yet to come.

Plaxico predicts the major pollen players will be out by the second weekend in April — pine, oak, pecan, sweet gum, maple, beech, hickory, poplar and cottonwood.

He anticipates a transition out of cold and flu season later this month before getting hit hard with allergens in April, May and June.

Right now, about the only major irritant out there is mold.

“If you look at it, it has rained or snowed nearly every week since the fall,” Plaxico said.

Persistent flooding on the Ocmulgee River and local streams and creeks has increased mold.

Chi-ches-ter’s pharmacist Al Greenway has been filling prescriptions and recommending over-the-counter allergy remedies for 53 years.

“It seems to be getting a little worse, but it’s a problem all the time in this river valley,” Greenway said. “It’s bad in Macon as the dust and allergens and pollen all settle here. Some people who have never had a problem do have a problem when they come here.”

Rain is usually an allergy sufferer’s friend as it washes away pollen. This year it may not only generate more mold but could spur early grasses and weeds. June is usually the big month for grass, while the weeds generally thrive in August.

With the trees budding later and the grasses and weeds coming out earlier, it may be an intense time for sufferers.

“When the pollen comes out, it will be a shorter season but worse because there will be so much at one time,” Plaxico said.

Macon pollen counts are posted each week at www.drplaxico.com, while the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has an extensive Web site at www.aaaai.org.

Plaxico warns of people assuming they have allergies, as only one in four people truly do.

“They may be over-treated or treated inappropriately because they don’t really have allergies,” he said.

For those who suffer, he suggests avoiding allergens by keeping windows closed and running automobile air conditioning in the air-circulation mode. Allergy medications or vaccines may be necessary in the worst cases.

Plaxico said he’s been particularly busy lately with sinus sufferers coming off stubborn colds or flu.

“I haven’t seen a lot of really typical allergens yet,” he said, “but it’s coming.”

To reach writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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