Between last week’s heavy rain and the weekend’s sunshine, the trees are exploding with tiny yellow particles that make my eyes water and my nose run. There’s also the sneezing. Oh, and that horrible itching sensation in my ears — is that normal?
Pollen has been high since April 3, even on Friday when we all expected things to get better. Remember how hard it rained Thursday? It should have wiped some of this pollen from the air (and the branches), but the yellow haze kept going strong.
We’re in a double-peak year. Instead of one allergy season, we get two. (Yay!)
The first one was in February — otherwise known as the weirdest, warmest February on record in D.C. The second is right now. On Monday, the tree pollen was at 825 grains per cubic meter of air.
February’s pollen peak was the highest in at least 20 years, according to Susan Kosisky, who runs the U.S. Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab. Among the pollen types were grasses, which Kosisky said was uncommonly early. Cedar, cypress, elm and maple trees were among the ones with pollen in late February.
On Feb. 23, pollen counts topped 1,700 grains per cubic meter. On Feb. 24, they were nearly 1,500. Those are the two highest February pollen days since the Silver Spring lab started recording measurements in 1998.
Winter arrived in March and put a pin in the early-pollen madness. Now that things are warming up again, the second peak is upon us — ash, birch, oak and mulberry trees, so I’m told. It’s early for those species to be pollinating, too.
“There is plenty of pollen on the way,” Kosisky wrote in the 2017 pollen report, which she updates regularly. “ ‘Peak weekly averages’ may occur as early as the last week in March and as late as the 1st week in May.”
She also notes that tree pollen usually peaks in the last two weeks in April — which is D.C.’s “most prolific” pollen month. If that holds true this year, our allergies are going to get worse before they get better.
It’s going to stay warm for the rest of the week, so don’t wash your car yet. Wednesday we might see some rain — emphasis on might — and then it’s going to dry out, which means more pollen.
Here’s the upshot! Kosisky said trees produce only a certain amount of pollen, so it’s not like they’ll keep going and going, but the weather can bring out the worst, so to speak. Here’s hoping the yellow haze has reduced to something more manageable by May.