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North country’s high pollen count aggravates allergies; rainfall supposed to help

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CANTON - A spike in the region’s pollen count is leaving allergy sufferers and others with stuffed up noses, scratchy eyes and bouts of sneezing.

The blooming trees, grass and flowers may look pretty, but they’re causing a lot of discomfort for many north country residents, according to Dr. Gregory J. Healey, who operates a family practice in Canton.

“People with allergies are seeing severe symptoms this year. They say it’s the worst they’ve ever had, ” Dr. Healey said Thursday. “I’m also seeing people who have allergy symptoms even though they’ve never had allergies before.”

Rain may bring some relief, but likely won’t resolve the problem for many, he said.

For severe cases, Dr. Healey said he’s prescribed steroids to help relieve patients’ symptoms.

Paul J. Hetzler, a horticulturist and natural resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, said consecutive days of warm weather this month resulted in various species of trees blooming at the same time rather than in different stages like a typical year.

Earier this week, the region’s pollen count was between 10 to 12 grains per cubic meter which he described as “quite high.”

Ordinarily, willow and poplar trees bloom first followed by red and silver maple trees, but this year they both bloomed at the same time which sent large amounts of pollen in the air.

“The pollen all burst at the same time. Usually we don’t have this type of overlap,” Mr. Hetzler said. “The hot weather has brought everything out flowering at once.”

Pollen is the powdery substance produced by flowering plants that contains male reproductive cells. It’s carried by the wind to insects and other plants which it fertilizes.

Dr. Healey said closing windows in the evenings can help allergy sufferers, but mostly it will take time for the pollen counts to go down.

“It’s mostly a waiting game, just sneeze and bear it,” he said.

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