Problem pollen a pain for allergy sufferers

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- We are seeing some very high pollen levels around the Valley this week. And that's making it hard to breathe for people who suffer from seasonal allergies.

"I used to buy allergy medication every time I bought milk and bread," Tara DuBose-Schmitt said. "It was just that constant."

Doctors say pine tree pollen on your car is dirty and annoying, but it's not a big allergen.

A constant reminder in Alabama, as the trees flower, and the cars begin to glow a soft yellow, allergy season has returned.

"It's part of life. I don't hang out my laundry to dry because that would be cruel and unusual punishment," DuBose-Schmitt said.

"You really have to be on a cruise about 400 miles away to get away from pollen," Dr. Shashi Kumar said. Kumar treats allergy sufferers at the Alabama Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Center.

Dr. Kumar is seeing a few more patients than usual at his clinic in Huntsville. Fortunately, Thursday's rain is a welcome sight.

"The gentle continuous downpour washes out pollens and does give short-term relief," Dr. Kumar said.

Dr. Kumar says not all pollen is created equal. The pollen on your car is from pine. It's heavier and annoying to clean, but that's not giving you fits. The problem pollen is what you can't see, released from oak and maple trees, along with mold spores.

"March and April is the peak time for trees to pollinate around here," Dr. Kumar said. "April and May is for grasses. So, when people are out trying to clean, they're heavily exposed."

Dr. Kumar says a Claritin or Zyrtec can help if you have symptoms one or two days a week. If you suffer four days or more, you'll likely need a nasal spray.

Dr. Kumar says thunderstorms can actually be worse for pollen because the moisture can break up the pollen into smaller particles that can get into your lungs.

He says allergy shots can be effective, but they can take over three years for long-term relief.