Just about everything is covered in yellowish green pollen these days.

It's the time of year when plants unleash the stuff that helps them reproduce, coating our world with it.

And by the echoing sound of sneezes and sniffles, it's really getting to a bunch of you.

While pollens can be around almost any day of the year, spring is the worst. And our region is notorious for it.

"This area is a tough area," said Lindsey Moore, a doctor at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters who specializes in asthma, allergies and immunology. "We have relatively mild temperatures and a lot of different pollens."

Reader Tom Benson queried The Virginian-Pilot's Glad You Asked initiative about the pollen, noting "I don't even have any trees in my yard, yet everything is covered."

He asked: Where does it come from?

Pollen is a fine powder that plants use to germinate, which happens when it's blown off the stamen of flowers and lands on the pistol. Pollenization happens when the wind blows, but also when insects seeking nectar fly from flower to flower.

Moore said the stuff we see is tree pollen. Pollen.com, which reports pollen counts, says right now it's oak and pine.

The pine likely isn't the stuff that has you wearing out a box of Kleenex every other day. Blame the oak, along with maple, alder and elm trees for those symptoms. Later, when tree pollen starts to taper off, blame the grass.

"There is some overlap in this area," Moore said. "There is some grass pollen now to go with the trees."

The show doesn't end when grasses stop germinating — pollen is in the air almost nine months of the year. After trees and grasses come most weeds, followed by ragweed in the late summer until the first frost.

Global warming isn't helping. Johns Hopkins professor and allergist Corinne Keet told Pollen.com that the pollen season is starting earlier and lasting longer.

And don't expect spring rains to help. Moore said that the "right" kind of rain — light to moderate with little to no wind — helps lower pollen counts while it's falling. But stormy rain blasts the stuff out of the flowers and spreads it all around. Heavy rain also causes plants to ramp up their production of pollen.

So what's a nose supposed to do?

Moore said there are plenty of precautions the allergic can take, like antihistamines, nasal sprays and nasal rinsing, but nothing shy of locking yourself in a bubble will totally prevent symptoms.

It's important to get a jump on the season, Moore said, so start taking your medications before it starts. 

"When it's really bad, stay inside as much as you can, especially in the morning and evening when pollen peaks," Moore said.

When you must be outside, wear glasses to help stop pollen from getting in your eyes, and cover your mouth and nose. Change your clothes after coming into the house, even take a shower if you can.

"You want to try to keep it out of the bedroom as much as possible," Moore said.

For some, allergy shots and under-the-tongue prescriptions are about the only way to prevent symptoms.

For everyone else, keep plenty of tissues handy and hold off on washing the car until the yellow stuff is no more.

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com


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