Nothing says springtime in Atlanta like piles of facial tissues, billowing clouds of yellow dust and an encouraging addition to the weather forecast known as the pollen count.
Simply defined, the pollen count is the number of grains of pollen in a cubic meter of air. It is measured by placing a silicon-covered rod outdoors for a 24-hour period and then analyzing the particles caught in the silicon. The higher the number, the worse conditions are for allergy sufferers.
Perhaps no other element of forecasting is as exciting to meteorologists short of a Doppler-enhanced, VIPIR II-detected bow echo in their severe weather center. As it rises into the tens of thousands, the smiling, suited, well-coiffed purveyors of climatological abnormality tell us with glee how miserable we are likely to be on any given day.
It never matters what the calendar says. I don’t care when the first pitch of baseball season is thrown. I know that spring doesn’t officially begin until allergy season gets into high gear.
For those of us living in the New South, the pollen count has become an important consideration in how we plan our day. It influences whether we wash our car, visit a park, pack a wad of tissues in our purse before we leave the house, how far we plan to drive under the influence of an antihistamine and even what we wear.
I clearly remember trying to close my car door last spring with my derriere because my hands were full. My navy pants bore the yellow emblem of my foolishness throughout the workday, and my car door had the unique and FBI-database-traceable imprint of my rear end in yellow dust for several days. This is the real reason Southerners wear yellow in springtime. Khaki hides pollen pretty well, but maybe it’s time I invest in some yellow or even light green pants. Perhaps I should consider accessorizing my spring wardrobe with a gas mask.
On Wednesday, I could tell the pollen count was high even before I rolled out of bed. The gurgling of fluid in my ear, the coagulation of mucus in my nostrils and the irritation in the back of my throat all told me that it was going to be a 10,000+ kind of day. Just writing that last sentence made me sneeze.
A couple of cold, rainy days have brought some recent relief, but that’s a high price to pay. Is it better to have a beautiful spring day or the last vestiges of winter just so you can breathe? It’s a Hobson’s Choice really. We get what we get, and we don’t pitch a fit.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-pollen. I understand all about the birds and the bees. Pollen is a necessary part of the beauty of Southern springtime. Spring in Atlanta is really beautiful. The redbuds and Bradford pears have come and gone, our dogwoods are budding, the neighbor’s Yoshino is in full, glorious bloom and the azaleas are out. It is a spectacle that I anticipate each year.
I just wish I didn’t have to sacrifice breathing to enjoy it.
How do you cope with pollen season? Which variety attacks you the worst? Share your allergy cures and favorite spring blooms by leaving a comment below.