If you are one of many South Carolinians who have just begun to feel the first twinges of headaches, stuffy noses and weighty chests, it’s likely for a familiar reason.
South Carolina is almost two weeks into its tree pollen season, says Neil Kao, an allergist at the Allergic Disease & Asthma Center in Greenville.
And after the pollen finally lifts, will mosquitos, South Carolina’s second warm-weather terror, be far behind? Alas, two of the state’s major annoyances (withering humidity is the third) are about to pay the Palmetto State their annual visits.
But there are ways to cope.
The pollen count, which is the measurement of the number of grains of pollen in a cubic meter of air, is in the “high” range right now, Kao said. The higher the count, the more people who have allergies to certain kinds of pollen will suffer.
Typically, the tree pollen builds in South Carolina for six weeks, Kao said, reaching its height around April 9 – give or take a week. “The bad news is that, right upon the heels of the tree pollen season comes the grass pollen season,” Kao said.
As for mosquitos, last October’s floods could make this year’s infestations worse, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Local governments already have battle plans.
Your personal battle plans may be the most important ones of all, though. Here are some tips:
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398
How to prepare for the pollen season
Take medicines preventatively – consider it the effect of bailing water in advance of the flood, Kao advises.
Look at over-the-counter, anti-allergy medicines – for instance, check out salt-water sinus rinses, antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase, and decongestants such as Sudafed.
Sometimes, a combination of these medications is warranted.
Don’t worry what the culprit is – hickory, oak, elm, sycamore, maple – all pump out pollen, Kao said. Only the amount of pollen they produce varies from year to year. “Relatively speaking, because of the overlap, it doesn’t matter.”
How severe is this pollen season expected to be?
Pollen levels cannot be predicted. All pollen is subject to the weather – for instance, torrential rains at the height of a given pollen season will lessen its impact on people.
It’s still early, but so far the pollen levels have been within normal limits, preliminary data shows.
More information about pollen and allergies
National Allergy Bureau Pollen Counts: www.allergicdisease.com
Neil Kao website: www.kaoallergyasthma.blogspot.com; see updated pollen count information, FAQs
Mosquito season in South Carolina begins in mid-March, and state experts say they will know better when it gets consistently warm how bad the mosquito population will be this year. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control does not track mosquito populations, but the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
Yes, recent flooding in South Carolina could make the mosquito population larger when the weather warms up. Mosquitos that breed in floodwater habitats are sneaky – they can lay eggs on the sides of containers, in mud or damp soil, then lie dormant until rain returns.
The ideal conditions for mosquitos
Rainfall coupled with open containers or damp soil can stimulate the hatching of floodwater mosquitos. Conversely, a drought can stimulate population increases in some species such as the southern house mosquito in storm drains.
The perfect antidote for mosquitos is people
Mosquitos typically fly only a few hundred feet from their breeding ground. The best way to disrupt mosquito infestation is to find all the places where water can accumulate. Drain, fill or eliminate places where water stands and throw away containers that have standing water.
See more tips at www.scdhec.gov/mosquitos
What about mosquitos that transmit the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is not currently found in mosquitos in the United States, DHEC says. No cases of Zika have been identified in South Carolina. The most likely carrier of the Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is found only in small numbers in South Carolina and only in the Lowcountry.
But one mosquito species that is abundant throughout South Carolina, the Aedes albopictus, is a potential carrier of the virus.
Richland County said this week it would begin spraying soon for mosquitos in densely populated areas. Richland County typically sprays for adult mosquitos outside the Columbia city limits between midnight and dawn.
Residents, who remain the best option for stopping mosquito growth, are urged to empty and eliminate containers where water collects. The city of Columbia concentrates on mosquito larvae, citing areas where production begins.
The city also seeks to eliminate breeding sites such as abandoned, empty and overgrown lots that create habitat for mosquitos to breed.
Inspectors also attend neighborhood meetings to educate residents on how to lower mosquito production.
Sources: The Allergic Disease & Asthma Center, Greenville, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Dr. Neil Kao, allergist, Richland County, the City of Columbia