High pollen levels return, triggering allergies and coating our cars in yellow
The spread is heightened by the seasonal wind. For people experiencing allergy symptoms, experts recommend staying indoors, closing windows and showering after being outside.
A steady stream of cars queues at the Take 5 Car Wash this month on Archer Road in Gainesville.
Their drivers’ pursuit? Get clean from the pervasive yellow pollen dust.
Randy Robinson was one of them on a recent afternoon. Robinson said that he was washing his car due to the amount of pollen that covered it.
“I’m on Claritin right now just because of all of the pollen,” Robinson said.
Since Feb. 25, there has been one day that the pollen levels in Gainesville were not labeled as high. March 4 has been the lowest recorded pollen level of 8.9 since Feb. 25, per data recorded on pollen.com.
Lindsay O’Farrell, an assistant manager of a Gainesville Take 5 car wash, has seen a dramatic increase in car traffic to the business during the past month or so.
“We’ve been doing 800 to 1,000 cars [a day],” O’Farrell said. On a recent Wednesday at 4 p.m., O’Farrell noted that they had already washed about 700 cars that day.
The pollen is not only covering cars with yellow dust, but it is also triggering people who experience allergies.
“I would say the pollen has impacted my allergies. I always notice it this time of year,” said Kendall Davis, a University of Florida senior accounting major.
Dr. Lyda Cuervo Pardo, an assistant professor of medicine in the UF Health Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said doctors think that about 25% of kids and 40% of adults globally can suffer from rhinitis symptoms, otherwise known as allergy symptoms.
For people experiencing allergy symptoms, their body is producing a molecule called immunoglobulin E, also known as IgE in response to the trigger, according to Dr. Cuervo, a physician at UF Health Allergy–Springhill and the section chief of allergy and immunology.
While it may seem like throughout the spring months allergy symptoms could feel heightened due to the pollen levels, pollen is produced year-round.
Marc Frank, an extension botanist and UF/IFAS Extension and associate collection manager at the Florida Museum, said the types of pollen-producing species that humans react to include conifers, grasses and subsets of trees.
“Let me just say that people have allergies all year round, and to pollens, and there’s just different species responsible at different times of [the] year,” Frank said.
Annelise Tucker, who experiences allergies year-round has particularly been experiencing allergy symptoms during the spring months. She feels the post-nasal drip and finds herself sneezing.
“During pollen season, I am especially affected,” Tucker said.
There is a specific element contributing to the heightened pollen allergies — the wind.
”So the plant species that produce pollen that we tend to react to are those species that are wind pollinated, as opposed to insect pollinated,” Frank said.
It is important to be informed about ways to minimize pollen exposure while being proactive to reduce allergy symptoms.
“What I tell to my patients is that it’s better if you can, you know, keep your windows closed,” Dr. Cuervo said.
Cuervo went also explained the importance of changing and showering after being outside.
“This way you’re leaving all of the pollen behind,” Cuervo said. “At least when you’re home that’s kind of like your sanctuary; you’re not bringing any off the pollens inside.”
She also suggests to her patients to plan outdoor activities for the afternoon when pollen levels are not as high considering the fact that the morning tends to be the highest pollen counts. Wearing a face mask for any gardening or mowing of grass is wise, in addition to using the air conditioner when inside as opposed to opening windows.
As the strive to minimize pollen exposure continues, the summer months should bring lower pollen levels.
“For us here in Gainesville, once we get into summer, not only are the trees fully leased out, but then we tend to have a lot of daily rain showers, Frank said. “And that can quickly move the pollen out of the air.”