When we have days like those we have seen for the past week or so, it may seem that spring will never arrive. The advantage of this kind of weather for those who suffer from pollen allergies is that the airborne pollen counts remain low, meaning pollen induced hayfever is not likely to be a problem if you are spending time outdoors. There are only a few plants that are producing pollen this time of the year, and those that do are not actively producing and releasing it in large amounts due to the rainy/cold weather. However, the release of some tree pollens has begun and will most likely increase dramatically within the next 2-4 weeks. We have been collecting cedar pollen in air samples for a month or more, but the counts of pollen grains/m3 of air have risen only sporadically above the low to moderate categories up to this time. (See chart below for an explanation of what number of pollen grains must be present per cubic meter of air to achieve the various levels listed.)
Cedar pollen is always our first pollen of significance in Alabama, although we will also have alder, maple, and other pollen types that show up in our samples in late January and early February. (Weather plays a key role in determining the types and numbers of pollen grains we collect in our daily samples.) We began to see elm pollen late in January or early in February and this type of pollen normally increases significantly during February and extends into March.
By the middle of March, everyone who has tree pollen allergies should be aware of the rapidly changing pollen profiles that can occur depending upon the weather and where you live. Stay alert to these changes and reduce outside activities if possible during periods of high pollen levels. The Birmingham-Southern College/Alabama Asthma and Allergy Center pollen collection station reports counts to the National Allergy Bureau 3-5 times weekly. These counts are available from the NAB website http://pollen.aaaai.org/nab/index.cfm?p=allergenreport&stationid=192. Talk to your allergist if you have questions about how you should handle your hayfever and its associated symptoms of runny nose and watery eyes. Your enjoyment of spring will be enhanced if you reduce your allergy attacks by avoiding some of the allergic triggers (pollen) when possible, and following your physician’s advice regarding prevention and treatment of hay fever and asthma.
Wayne Shew, Ph.D.
NAB certified counter
BSC/AAAC Collection Station—Birmingham, Alabama