Doctors seeing record high pollen counts

Owens says the green pollen often seen on cars is not the "bad pollen;" she says bad pollen is the one you can't see / Sarah Bleau

People are sneezing more and doctors are seeing more patients with allergy problems, and it's no wonder: A warm winter is sending pollen counts soaring in Georgia.

In Albany, researchers say pollen counts skyrocketed to very high levels in March which normally are not seen until April. According to research by the Georgia Pollens Clinical Research Centers, Inc., tree pollen count for Tuesday was "very high" at 2,718. The grass pollen count on Tuesday was "high" at 41, and weeds ranked as "moderate" with a 24 pollen count.

"It's the worst we've seen as quick as we've seen it. I've seen high numbers in trees but it usually climbs to the very high mid-April, not right now," says Jonnie Owens, a research nurse at Allergy and Asthma Clinic located in Albany. She says if pollen levels are as high as they are now, they may get worse through the beginning of summer.

Officials say a record high pollen count of 9,369 particles of pollen per cubic meter was measured in metro Atlanta on Tuesday, shattering Monday's level of 8,164.

"I don't know what they're looking at. It's probably an accumulative score... which, the score that we break down is, we break it down into trees, weeds, grass," says Owens.

Owens says the green pollen often seen on cars is not the "bad pollen;" she says bad pollen is the kind you can't see.

She says if you are experiencing allergy issues, talk with your pharmacist about over-the-counter allergy pills. Owens says they can recommend a pill that will not cause a negative reaction with pills you are already taking.

Officials say this week's pollen counts are well above the old record of 6,013, which dates to April 12, 1999. The pollen counts were measured by the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist with the clinic, tells The Marietta Daily Journal that doctors have never seen the level this high, and patients are having a lot more difficulties this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.