Feb 29, 2024 - News

New Orleans' pollen-palooza is just getting started

Illustration of a flower with a menacing look

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Grab your tissues and Flonase, New Orleans, because the pollen has arrived.

Why it matters: New Orleans is one of the country's allergy capitals, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Driving the news: Live oaks are blooming two to three weeks earlier than last year, says Anna Timmerman, an LSU AgCenter assistant horticultural agent for metro New Orleans.

  • Tree pollen counts have been high all week, and Pollen.com says the city is one of the worst places in the country right now for allergy sufferers.
  • Everything's already coated in a yellow film, and it's just the start of New Orleans' months-long allergy season.

The big picture: The city has four main allergy irritants, Timmerman says. Pollen-related allergies are what many people call "hay fever."

  • Tree pollen: Trees usually start blooming in February, but they were early this year, she said. Common offenders are live oak, pine, pecan, tallow, sycamore, elm and cedar trees.
  • Ragweed pollen: Usually starts in early April, she said, but is on track to arrive early. Giant ragweed blooms through October or November.
  • Mold: Mold spores love damp, humid environments like decaying plant matter. They thrive during our summer weather pattern — hot with daily showers — and are commonly found in homes and HVAC systems.
  • Grass pollen: Usually April through September, but it isn't as big of a problem as other irritants, Timmerman said. The most common allergy-causing grasses include bahia, bermuda, fescue, Johnson and rye, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

Zoom in: Ligustrum is an ornamental shrub that is widely used in New Orleans and causes allergy problems for some people. It's also blooming earlier than normal this year and will go through April, she said.

  • Magnolias, jasmine, gardenias and other blooming ornamentals usually don't bother people, she said, because they don't produce a lot of pollen.

Threat level: Allergy symptoms vary by person, but they can include a runny nose, a stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal congestion.

What's next: You can improve your allergy symptoms by using antihistamines and nasal sprays, changing the air filter in your home and showering after you've been outside, advises the Mayo Clinic.

Go deeper for more tips from the Mayo Clinic

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