Record-high pollen covers part of the region

WASHINGTON — You might need to excuse a friend’s runny nose and sneezing fits for a while as parts of the D.C. area are experiencing record-high pollen levels.

“I’ve been doing pollen counting for 20 years and I’ve never seen a pollen count this high — ever,” said Respiratory Therapist David Kerxton with Drs. Golden and Matz of Owings Mills, Maryland.

The Thursday total count for pollen grains per cubic meter was 5670, considered “very high,” according to Kerxton’s Baltimore-area reading station.

Closer to D.C., pollen levels that were remarkably high last month now are considered high, but not unusual.

“At this point we are over a thousand grains per cubic meter, which is about average, or just maybe a little bit below average for this time of year,” said Microbiologist Susan E. Kosisky, director of the U.S. Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab.

Pollen counts can vary within even small areas depending on specific placement of monitors and various types of sampling equipment.

Kosisky’s equipment in Silver Spring, Maryland, is used to determine official counts for D.C., where trees began blooming last month.

“A little bit early. But the most notable thing was that the amounts were two to three times higher than the daily averages we usually see for the period,” Kosisky said.

Allergy sufferers can reduce symptoms by limiting pollen exposure numbers of ways.

  • When driving adjust the air conditioning fan to recirculate.
  • Use a wet cloth to wipe off pets that come in from outside.
  • Limit pollen exposure by wearing a hat and wraparound sunglasses.
  • Put pollen-exposed clothes directly into the washer when you get home.
  • If exposed to pollen outdoors bathe upon returning home or definitely before going to bed.
  • Flush pollen from nasal cavities with saline sprays or sinus irrigation also known as neti.
  • Exercise outside in the evening or very early morning. Pollen counts are highest on warm, breezy days.
  • Close windows and doors and stay inside.
  • Use central air conditioning and install allergy friendly filters.
  • Try over the counter antihistamines and or consider visiting an allergist for prescription or other therapies.

If you’re miserable with allergy symptoms now, take heart, relief is on the way. Rain is in the forecast Friday.

“Rain is great for pollen because it washes it out of the air,” Kerxton said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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