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Spring Brings Yellow Clouds of Misery

"The pollen count today is in the 'miserable' range," said the host of a morning TV program.

Miserable, indeed.

Big, yellow clouds of pollen misery coat cars, irritate eyes and aggravate allergies.

"We have an explosion of pollen in spring. Then everything will settle back down," said Pam Griggs of the Atlanta Allergy Clinic, one of two certified pollen counters in Georgia.

"Because we had such a late spring, everything bloomed at once," Griggs said. "Most trees and grasses are coming out now."

To measure the pollen in the air, the clinic uses a special sampler that raises a silicone-greased rod into the air. After 24 hours the rod is removed and examined under a microscope to get the pollen count.

Atlanta, and most of Georgia, blew through the top of the pollen-count charts on April 16. More than 3,400 particles per cubic meter of air were reported in north Georgia.

During the first week of April the highest count was 332. And that could cause severe problems. In the spring, Griggs said, pollen counts of zero to 30 are considered low. Counts of 30-60 are moderate, 60-120 high and anything over 120 extremely high.

"We are blessed with trees in Georgia, and pollen is just a part of their reproduction," said Carroll County Extension Director Don Morris."Pollen particles are the male spores of flowers. Trees depend on wind to distribute the pollen during flowering."

This simple act of nature causes itchy, watery eyes, sore throats and some respiratory irritation in allergy sufferers.

"Pine pollen, the yellow pollen you see, shows up more but isn't as much a problem for allergy sufferers as others like oak pollen," Morris said.

Can you escape the pollen invasion?

"This is certainly no time to air out your house," said Dale Dorman, an Extension housing specialist. "Keep your house closed and turn on the air conditioner for ventilation."

But just keeping the doors and windows closed may not be enough.

"There's really no effective way to keep pollen out of a house," Dorman said. "You just have to take steps to reduce it."

Even humidity affects the amount of pollen finding its way inside.

"When the relative humidity is low, the dry conditions make pollen float around in the air," Dorman said. "Turning on a humidifier will help make those particulates fall out of the air and give you cleaner air inside your home."

Air filters on heating and cooling systems also can help filter out pollen.

"It's just something that we're going to have to put up with until the first of June," Dorman said.

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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