Pollen plaguing outdoor workers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Pollen plaguing outdoor workers

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - The spring sound of bees buzzing leaves behind a typical sight in the Tennessee Valley--pollen covering just about everything. It's an unwelcome sign of the season for Caleb Bates, a crew chief for Big Woody's Tree Service.

"When you're cutting it's all over you. It gets on your clothes. It's everywhere," says Bates. "It literally turns you yellow by the end of the day."

This spring has started strong. Thursday's pollen count for Chattanooga was close to 2200, well past 120 which is the top of the chart for this time of year.

Bates notices it taking a toll on his crew every day. Some of them rely on medicine, like many of you, to get through their shifts.

"Their sinuses are plugged up. They get sinus headaches behind the eyes," describes Bates.

He himself isn't immune, either.

"From time to time, when it gets bad, I might take something over-the-counter," Bates admits.

Pollen swirls into the air along with the dirt as they rake leaves and small branches that fall after cutting trees and limbs. Bates says the pollen definitely slows down productivity a bit, but there's only so much they can do.

"You have to go blow your nose a lot more and that takes a few minutes off your time, especially when you have to lay down a saw and your equipment," says Bates. "You have to walk away and then come back."

On this day their Kleenex has been used up and there are barely any sheets left on the back-up roll of toilet paper. Relief is running out.

"You just feel so sick to your stomach and your eyes and your head, you just have to do something about it and leave for a little while," adds Bates.

They escape to the sanctuary of the cab of the truck when they can, but on some days the pollen wins the battle.

"Sometimes you may have to cut out a little early," says Bates.

He goes on to say that last year they tried wearing masks, but this actually made it harder to breath--a catch-22. Bates says he's heard of tree cutters quitting in the past because the pollen got so bad, perhaps ironic for a job that comes with a huge amount of more obvious physical danger.

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