Extreme Allergies

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 16, 2008

Miles of farmland surround the Tyndal Mound rice drying factory in Knight’s Landing, near Woodland. Silos and grain elevators line the property.

Tony Bryson is riding up one of those silos on a vertical lift.

Bryson is 63 and has worked at the factory for almost three decades. He’s lived in Knight’s Landing for more than 50 years and one of his sons is a rice farmer nearby.

As Bryson reaches the top landing of the silo, sun spills through the window and the air is chalky.

“There’s six tanks here that hold about 12,000 sacks each that we circulate the rice in and dry. And, you can see how some of the dust is at times.”

Bryson is around that dust all day long. And, he’s allergic to it. He says he reacts to other allergens as well like ragweed and blooming grasses.

“My eyes water and itch at times, a lot of sneezing, eight or ten times, you know a lot more than a normal person would, it’s usually just from the dust, I’ve got a respirator I wear part of the time and it helps a lot.” 

“Is there any place that we’ve been that you feel like your allergies flare up?”

“All the way around (laughter). This time of the year is usually bad for me and then at harvest time, where I’m in the dust, there’s more dust, because I’m in it all the time.”

Bryson’s boss, Joseph Hutchins, says he gives his workers as much relief as he can.  

“We have our respiratory program, to prevent the dust and if there’s any improvement we can make, that he came to me with, we’d definitely acknowledge it and see what we could do.” 
But there’s only so much you can do to treat patients who work outdoors because they’re constantly exposed to allergens. That’s according to Dr. Stanley Naguwa of the UC Davis allergy clinic. There is a common thread for anyone with allergies who goes outside.

“The best thing for them is wear a mask.”

And, Dr. Naguwa says take your allergy medicine before you leave the house. That goes for outdoor workers, hikers, gardeners or people just taking a stroll. He also has a few more tips. 
“You also have to be careful that you have to somewhat shield your eyes because the pollens can get in through your eyes. And once you are done with your particular activities you need to shower to get the pollens out of your hair and off your skin and certainly change your clothes.” 

But for outdoor workers like Tony Bryson it takes more than a change of clothes and a mask. He says at the rice drying factory he just can’t get away from the allergens. So why has he worked there for almost 30 years? Deep roots in the community, a company he likes and…medical benefits.

“It’s got good insurance and a pretty good retirement. I weighed everything and where I would’ve went didn’t have some of the stuff I thought I’d need later so I stayed.” 
As Bryson frequently wipes off his dusty glasses he says he’ll put up with the allergies for a least a few more years before he retires and can collect on those benefits.