Pollen counts on the rise

March 23, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: While spring blossoms add to the natural beauty of the federal capital, the pollen in the air makes life difficult for allergy patients.

According to the Met Office, rains had helped keep pollen counts low over the last two weeks but clear weather has suddenly increased the pollen in the air over the last two days.

“On Saturday, the pollen count in Islamabad was 9,400 which increased to 18,132 on Sunday. On Monday, the count could cross 20,000 but on Tuesday and Wednesday rain is expected which would settle the pollen in the air,” Mohammad Junaid of the Met Office told Dawn.

“After Wednesday, the pollen count will begin rising and again could cross 30,000,” he added.

The official said 2005 was the worst year for allergy patients in Islamabad when the pollen count crossed the mark of 47,000 on March 26.

In 2006 and 2008, the pollen count touched 45,000. Last year, a maximum pollen count of over 30,000 was recorded on March 23, he said.

“Even the count of 18,000 is considered extremely high so the allergy patients should adopt precautionary measures. Some patients leave Islamabad during spring and those planning to do so should leave immediately as the pollen count will only rise in the coming days,” he said.

The official said the pollen season usually started on March 15 and ended after the first week of April.

Meanwhile, the number of pollen allergy patients arriving in hospitals is increasing. The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) media coordinator, Dr Waseem Khawaja, told Dawn that 1,200 adult allergy patients and 1,500 children visited the emergency department of the hospital this month.

“Moreover, a number of people suffering from pollen allergies have been visiting the Outpatient Department (OPD). As many as 50 nebuliers have been installed in the emergency department,” he said.

Dr Khawaja said pollen allergy symptoms included sneezing, runny nose, watering of eyes, coughing, improper breathing, wheezing and eventually attacks of seasonal asthma. The skin can also become itchy, he said.

Dr Khawaja said complete avoidance of allergenic pollen means moving to a place where the offending plant does not grow and where its pollen is not present in the air. But even this extreme solution may offer only temporary relief since a person who is sensitive to one specific weed, tree, or grass pollen may often develop allergies to others after repeated exposure.

“There are other ways to avoid pollen such as remaining indoors in the morning, when the outdoor pollen levels are highest. Sunny, windy days could be especially troublesome”.

If people with pollen allergy work outdoors, they should wear face masks designed to prevent pollen from reaching nasal passages. Some people take vacations in the pollen season and choose a location where such exposure would be minimal,” he said.

He said the temperatures have been rising over the last few days so air conditioners could be used at home and in the car to help reduce exposure to pollen in the air.

Published in Dawn March 23rd , 2015

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