The start of spring is traditionally when Eastern North Carolina begins to see high pollen levels.
“Every year, this is our peak period right now,” said Tom Mather, public information officer with the N.C. Division of Air Quality.
The division collects pollen data from a sampler in Raleigh beginning in early March and continuing until around mid-November.
While the station is in Raleigh, the trend is the same across the state. The pollen starts as soon as the trees start blooming, which typically begins earlier along the coast as temperatures warm.
“We usually start seeing high levels along the coast first and it moves across the state,” he said.
The division classifies pollen counts as low, moderate, high or very high; and right now tree pollen is highest.
While Monday’s pollen report showed grass and weed levels as low, tree pollen levels were high at 1,300 grains counted. A high count for trees is 271 to 3,000 grains.
Dr. James Zechman of the Allergy & Asthma Clinic of New Bern, which has a satellite office in Morehead City, said tree pollens are released first during the spring season.
But it’s not necessarily that yellowish pollen coating your car that is the culprit for flaring allergy symptoms.
“A lot of what you’re seeing (on cars) is pine pollen, but pine pollen is not very allergenic,” Zechman said.
It’s the pollen from trees such as oak and maple trees that are predominately affecting people with allergies.
“In another four weeks it will be grass pollen,” he said.
Zechman said about 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is affected by allergies, but the response varies by individual. Not every person will be affected by the same tree pollens; and often they can be affected by a combination of tree, grass, dust and other allergens.
“It’s an individual response,” he said.
It may not be possible to avoid all pollen, but Onslow County Health Department Clinical Services Director Francine Reeves offers a few tips to lessen the impact.
Consider pollen counts before planning outside activities and stay inside if pollen levels are particularly high or if it is particularly windy. Also, pollen counts are usually highest during the early morning hours.
To decrease exposure to pollen, avoid using window and attic fans and close windows and doors. Using air conditioning in your car and home may be best during pollen season.
Also keep in mind that people and pets can bring pollen into the home from outside, making it helpful to change clothes and frequently bathe pets that spend time outdoors.
For now, the good thing about the forecast of April showers is that it will offer a short reprieve.