Pine pollen coats Truckee with yellow blanket
It gets up your nose, in your eyes and on your car. It makes you cough, sneeze and have watery eyes. It’s pollen and now is the time of year when it’s at its worst.
“This is one of the fiercest years I’ve ever seen,” said Truckee’s Steve Devin, a Safeway pharmacist. “The response is amazing. Pollen is getting through screens and coating things indoors. It’s crazy.”
Devin, a 15-year pharmacist, said with El Nino’s precipitation and colder temperatures, the area’s pines are a month behind in releasing their pollen.
“Usually the pollen is at its worst in May and June, before the tourist season,” he said. “This year, more and more tourists have been asking for a cure for their watery eyes and sneezing. They’re miserable.”
Ginny Razo, a pharmacist with Tahoe Forest Hospital, said the majority of symptoms stem from itchy, watery eyes to the point of burning, sneezing, nasal congestion and post nasal drip.
She said deciding whether to buy over-the-counter drugs or go to the doctor for a prescription can make a world of difference.
“Over the counter antihistamines usually produce a drowsy effect,” she said. “They are OK for night time use, but during the day they make it difficult.”
Razo added there are prescription drugs available that won’t make allergy sufferers sleepy.
Both she and Devin agreed the best over-the-counter medication is Nasalcrom. They said it won’t help with allergy symptoms, but will help people with allergies avoid the onset of the symptoms completely if taken for several days before symptoms appear.
“Nasalcrom builds immunity to the allergies caused by pollen and molds,” Razo said. “It’s a good preventative method.”
Botanist Susi Uri with the Truckee Ranger District said pollination is still going strong so it might not be too late for preventative measures.
Uri said the cycle is nothing new, except for the later release of the pollen. The conifers’ yearly reproductive cycle usually lasts up to three weeks. During that time the female flowers receive pollen disseminated by the wind.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “It looks worse because we are seeing it on the lakes’ surfaces later in the year.”
She said blowing pollen is making the skies above Truckee look smoky.
“The pollen will be around for a couple more weeks,” she said. “So be prepared.”
Jeffrey and ponderosa pines are the culprits today, and when they are done blooming, white and red firs will be the trees to let loose with their pollen.
Around Lake Tahoe, Jeffrey and lodgepole pines are blanketing the basin.
Foresters have said large stands of pines dominated by one species generate the most pollen, while forests with mixed conifers pollinate without many sufferers feeling the effect.
Until the pines stop pollinating, Devin said the pharmacy will be prepared for more allergy sufferers.
“We have kept pretty well stocked with our allergy medicines,” he said. “In fact, I think we have had a harder time keeping our bug sprays in stock.”
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