Pollen problems: How this season really stacks up


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With a chorus of sniffing, sneezing, and itching; pollen season has returned to West Michigan. Local allergists say this year West Michigan is getting a “healthy” dose of pollen, but the amount in the air isn’t really all that out of the ordinary.

Tree pollen has been out for about two weeks now and will last through May. Local Allergists like Dr. Tom Miller from Allergy Associates of Western Michigan say May is typically a bad pollen month because along with the tree pollen, grass and weed pollen are beginning.

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Jack Martin/Great Lakes Photo

 

DID THIS WINTER MAKE THE POLLEN WORSE?

Not really. Even though winter can influence a pollen season, it isn’t the biggest player in the game.

A cold winter is sometimes linked to a less-intense pollen year, and mild winters are more likely to bring high-pollen springs. But Dr. Miller says when it comes to pollen,  the timing of the spring thaw and the short term forecast are way more important.

A spring thaw followed by a few hard frosts can really dampen the pollen a lot.

What is most important is how warm and dry the forecast will be any given week in May. Really warm and windy weeks can cause trees to dump a lot of their pollen. Without rain or calm winds, that pollen can really fill up the air.

pollen count graphic 050915

As for this year, Miller says it is a pretty average year pollen wise. Dr. Miller says we have a “healthy” dose of pollen this year, and that’s normal.

WHY DOES IT SEEM SO BAD THIS YEAR?

Trees respond to especially warm weather when they are budding and blooming. During a warm spell, many tree flowers open and pollen begins to spread.

Our warm stretch this week is doing just that.

Frequently, people tend to notice pollen is “really bad” after a span without rain. Rain typically helps to grab pollen particles out of the air, and wash it off of cars and windows. However, during dry and windy days, pollen easily travels. Warm, dry and windy days are usually the toughest for those who suffer from allergies.

PRACTICAL POLLEN SOLUTIONS:

For people who suffer with allergies, here is a practical list of things you can do to minimize the effects.

  • Don’t leave your windows open at night
  • Stay inside during morning hours (5 a.m. to 10 a.m.) when pollen counts are highest.
  • Use air conditioning
  • Avoid going outside during warm, dry, windy days
  • Shower after spending extensive time outside to remove pollen that’s collected in your hair

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