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Silver Threads: It's not the heat, it's the ligustrum

 

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Nose running, eyes itching and puffy, I’m trolling the web for information about allergies in New Orleans.

There’s a lot out there, at least half of it advertisements for local doctors who specialize in treating the above symptoms, or over-the-counter remedies for same. Scattered among these are sites offering news on pollen levels in the area.

Bingo! I think. The ligustrum is in bloom in our neighbors’ yard, there are big, wild bushes covered with white flowers along the canal outside our back fence, our own lawn is growing apace since a trimming last week. But the website says today’s local levels of pollen from trees, ragweed and grass are low; ditto for mold.

Indoor dust and dander levels, however, are reported to be high, which makes me wonder how whoever checks this gets into individual houses to find it out. And surely homes in New Orleans have varying standards of dust-freeness, not to mention differences regarding the presence of dogs, cats and, maybe, pet hamsters or wild mice.

Our house benefits from the services of a competent weekly housecleaner, and the central air and heat ducts have been replaced within the last two years, so it’s probably not dust that’s making my nose run. That leaves the dander issue, and I look sorrowfully at our little long-haired dachshund, who gazes back with puzzled and somewhat worried brown eyes.

What to do? I call the main number of my health-care provider, and schedule an appointment with an allergist for this week. In the meantime, I’m poking around on the internet to find out whether New Orleans really is the worst of places to live if you have allergies. Conventional wisdom has it that if you don’t come to town sneezing, you soon will be.

Well, we’re not the worst, but we couldn’t be much closer, geographically speaking. According to the website Healthline, the cities that allergists and purveyors of Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra love best are Nashville, Memphis, Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City, Jackson, Miss., Chattanooga, Dallas, Richmond, Va., Birmingham and McAllen, Texas.

According to the website WebMD: “When it comes to allergies, Tennessee is where everything comes together. It has plenty  of Southern state company on the worst cities for allergies list because of the temperate climate, long growing season and abundant rainfall. In the South, tree pollen season is roughly February through May, with pollens from oak, cedar, and pecan trees the worst allergy triggers. Grasses can be a problem in the South year round.”

WebMD lists Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento, Albany, N.Y., Salt Lake City, Stockton, Calif., San Jose, Calif., Colorado Springs, and Daytona Beach, Fla., as the best cities in which to lead a seasonal allergy-free existence.

I’m dumbfounded at this last information. How did I just spend 10 days visiting kinfolks in the Portland and San Jose areas and come back with my nose running and eyes swollen?

Since housekeeping seemed adequate in both homes where I was a guest, it must have been that beautiful green-eyed Santa Cruz cat who found my lap so comfortable and purred there so contentedly.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]