Valley grappling with widespread seasonal allergy caused by pollen from Russian poplars

The Kashmir valley is grappling with a seasonal health hazard — pollen-induced allergy. Despite thousands of Russian poplars being cut down last year on the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the pollen allergy is widespread.

Though pollen allergies in the spring in the region are common, the allergy induced by the pollen of the poplar varieties imported from Russia, Australia and the US has turned into a perennial health hazard in Srinagar and other major towns, particularly Baramulla and Kupwara towns, where thousands of poplars line up the security garrisons.

“The pollen from the poplars has become a seasonal health hazard in Kashmir. The pollen in the air in the form of cotton fluff is proving to be a nuisance,” said Javed Ahmad Lone, a resident of Baramulla district.
Javed said his children were suffering from pollen allergy and were constantly sneezing.

“The most common symptoms of the pollen allergy are nasal irritation or burning, watery eyes coupled with redness and skin rashes,” said Dr Jehangir, a Kashmir-based paediatrician, who has been attending to scores of children with pollen allergy symptoms these days.

Jehangir advised wearing masks and glasses to avoid direct contact with the pollen.

The common symptoms of the pollen-induced allergy also include runny nose, which may further exacerbate if proper medical advice is not sought by the affected persons.

In 2015, the health hazard had caught the attention of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which had in May that year passed directions banning the plantation and trade of pollen-producing exotic varieties of poplar across the Kashmir valley, particularly the Russian poplar.

Subsequently, the divisional administration had issued orders for cutting down the Russian poplars.

Populus deltoides is the culprit
Though scores of poplar trees across the Valley have been cut down, experts have identified Populus deltoides, a female variety of the exotic poplar, which produces pollen with a lot of cotton fluff and is responsible for the allergy.

‘Avoid direct contact’
Health experts describe the pollen-induced allergy as a seasonal health hazard
They warn the condition may get exacerbated in asthma patients. Advise people prone to pollen allergies to wear masks and avoid direct contact with pollen or dust