So you got a runny nose with watery eyes and pollen is coating everything, sidewalks, decks, patio furniture, fence posts, your car and is even getting inside your house…welcome to spring time in the Carolinas!
Almost all green plants produce pollen at some time during the year, but spring is by far the time when most of the pollen is produced. The blooming trees and flowers that accompany the onset of spring and signal the beginning of pollen season can last for as much as six to eight weeks. Anything that’s starting to flower is starting to produce pollen. The amount of pollen varies widely within local areas and among geographic regions. Weather conditions have a major impact on pollen season. A rainy spring or late spring frost that kills flowers often reduces the amount of pollen in the atmosphere. The amount of pollen in the atmosphere tends to be highest early in the morning on warm, dry, breezy days and lowest during chilly, wet periods.
Pollen from plants is a natural occurrence, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Staying indoors, especially when the pollen count is high, may reduce some discomfort but probably will not eliminate it. There simply is no easy way to evade wind-borne pollen. Other ways to reduce the discomfort of pollen are:
- Remain indoors in the morning when the pollen levels are highest. Sunny, windy days can be especially bothersome for allergy sufferers. If you have a pollen allergy and you must work outdoors, you can wear tight fitting facemasks that are designed to filter pollen out of the air before it reaches your nasal passages.
- Keep your lawn mowed to prevent grasses from blooming and pollinating. When you do mow your grass, wear a mask to filter out the pollen particles.
- When you are in your car, keep your windows closed and your air conditioning on re-circulate.
- At home keep your windows closed during peak hours of the day, and be sure to replace your heating/cooling air filters regularly.
- Obtain a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. They are very effective in removing pollen from the air indoors without contaminating the environment with molds.
- Dry all your laundry indoors during the pollen season. Save the clothesline for pre- and post-pollen weather.
- Avoid travel in the country; especially on dry, windy days or while crops are being harvested.
- Pets bring in pollen on their fur. Brushing them thoroughly before they come in will keep them from “tracking” pollen inside.
- Change your clothes after being outside, since you can bring pollen inside. Wash or rinse your hair. Remove shoes before going inside.
- Wet dust and vacuum every day using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to reduce the amount of pollen residue on surfaces. People who are very sensitive may need to do housekeeping chores wearing a facemask, or may need to delegate their cleaning duties to someone else.
- Watch the pollen counts in the local weather reports. These counts represent the pollen concentration in the air in a certain area at a specific time. Although a pollen count is an approximate measure, it is useful as a general guide for when it is advisable to stay indoors and avoid contact with the pollen. The Weather Channel has a link to the pollen forecast for our area. Check out their web page at http://www.weather.com/forecast/
Following the tips above should help alleviate some of pollens discomforts. If your allergies seem extremely bad, you might want to consider making a visit to your physician for further evaluation.
Susan C. Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.