Depending on where you live, every spring or summer – or perhaps all year round – you leave your house and head to your car to see it covered in a fine layer of yellow powder. Most of us may not think much of this yellow dust (unless, of course, we just washed our cars), but to the 67 million with pollen allergies in the U.S., this is the signifies the onset of months of sneezing, watering and itchy eyes, sinus congestion and headaches, itchy skin, coughing, wheezing, and even stomach aches. So what does one with pollen allergies do?
The pollens that most are allergic to are produced by plain-looking trees, shrubs, grasses, and weeds that usually don’t flower or have rather plain-looking flowers. The male cells that fall from these plants drift to fertilize other plants, but most don’t reach their destination and it’s these that end up being responsible for rhinitis, or hay fever. Since the only way to entirely avoid pollen is to stay indoors, finding out the day’s pollen count is the best place to start. Most television weather reports give the local pollen count as part of the day’s forecast in the first news reports of the morning or online at websites like The Weather Channel’s. But what does it all mean?
First off, pollen levels differ greatly from city to city, which is why it is so important to get your pollen count from a local forecast. It’s also important to take into consideration that even if you can actually see pollen it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be part of the overall pollen count. For instance, pine trees can produce an enormous amount of pollen, but are not usually part of the pollen count as most people with pollen allergies are not allergic to pine pollen.
It’s also extremely important that you get your pollen count information from a reputable source that has the equipment and resources to give accurate measurements as counts can fluctuate throughout the day. Since pollen concentrations, which are measured by grains per square meter over the course of 24 hours, it’s possible for a pollen count in the morning on temperate, breezy days to be higher than in the afternoon or in humid weather. As some resources only update their information every 48 to 72, you really can’t rely on that forecast when your allergies are at stake.