Prescriptions: The Pollen Factor

Outside magazine, September 1996


Prescriptions: The Pollen Factor
By Jim Rosenthal


Ah, autumn: a time for active allergy sufferers to breathe a sigh of relief. In certain parts of the country, though, you might not want to breathe too deep. If you're among the allergic, you're all too familiar with the sinus perils of spring, when blooming trees and grasses are spewing out allergenic pollen. But certain locales in fall are no less severe.

Heading to arid climes won't necessarily help. Humidity, in fact, can be your ally. "In humid areas, pollen isn't as likely to stick to the nasal membrane, which is what causes irritation," says Dr. Jacob Pinnas, director of Arizona's Allergy and Asthma Center.

Indeed, some of the places pollen victims might think of as escapes are the worst allergenic offenders, according to the National Allergy Bureau. Five U.S. cities where you may be heading this fall have airborne-pollen densities of more than 500 grains per cubic meter this time of year. (A density between 20 and 50 is moderate.) The upshot for the afflicted? "Besides the usual symptoms," Pinnas says, "you could become incapacitated to the point where you won't be able to continue your hike or bike ride."

What to do? When in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, make sure to pack plenty of antihistamines.

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