Raleigh, N.C. — Runny noses and itchy eyes started a little earlier this year, thanks to a warm winter, but the early start to allergy season might be good news for pollen-haters.
Mary Clark, an environmental technician with the state's Division of Air Quality, has been counting pollen, one grain at a time, for 13 years. A machine collects pollen through the day, and she counts it the next morning.
The counts tell people what particular kind of pollen is making them miserable.
“Today, it’s mostly oaks. There are a few pine,” Clark said Tuesday.
Pine is the yellow-green pollen people can see. It's not the big problem.
“Most people are allergic to oaks. That's because the pollens are smaller,” Clark said, noting that the grains get into people’s lungs more easily. “There are a few grasses. I see a grass pollen, and this is very early for the grass pollen.”
The grass pollen’s early start is probably due to the warm weather, Clark said, which means the allergy season should last longer but not be as intense. The worst of pollen season should end by late April, but grass and weed pollen problems can last into the early fall.