It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

The pollen count in Atlanta was labeled extremely high today and we should say that term is now relative. Because in the last month the count has been astronomical, nearly 50 times what would be considered extremely high.

For Dr. Alpen Patel at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, that voluminous count has led to a high volume of calls from allergy patients with severe symptoms.

Dr. ALPEN PATEL (Allergy Specialist, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Atlanta): A lot of our patients who have allergy also suffer from sinus infections. And sometimes these sinus infections can be severe enough to where antibiotics don't resolve the sinus infections and they need further help in the form of sinus surgery.

NORRIS: Dr. Patel says while this year's count is extraordinary, there's always a spike in the spring in Atlanta. Now, when we talk about a pollen count, consider this: someone counts all that pollen. One of those people is Marie McFalls of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. She collects pollen over a 24-hour period, then takes a sample and puts it on a slide under a microscope.

Ms. MARIE McFALLS (Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic): And we are able to - I look through the microscope and identify and count the pollens, then calculate it per cubic meter of air.

NORRIS: So you actually count all the particles on that slide?

Ms. McFALLS: We actually count one pollen, two pollens. When it gets 5,000 and something, I mean it's just extremely high.

NORRIS: So when the pollen count soars, what should you do if you're sneezing or rubbing at watery eyes? For that answer, here is Dr. Stan Fineman, also at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic.

Dr. STAN FINEMAN (Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic): We do recommend you stay indoors with your windows closed, your air conditioning on; try not to go outside in the early morning hours when the pollen tends to be the highest. Wash your hair when you come in and go to bed because the pollen can stay on your hair. Animals, if you have animals that come inside, make sure they're clean and washed, because they can bring in pollen as well.

Now, in terms of other types of remedies, there are various medications there available. When it gets out of hand, we do recommend that people have testing to figure out what exactly is triggering their allergies and then specific allergy injections, or allergy immunotherapy or shots.

NORRIS: Oh, and one more thing, says Dr. Fineman. If you're planning on resorting to bee pollen or honey to get rid of your allergies, don't. For some, he says, that natural remedy can cause much bigger problems.

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