How pollen, seasonal allergies could affect your weekend outdoor plans

pollen on windshield
Early-season allergies are often caused by tree pollen. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

After several days of watching tree pollen pile up on cars and reaching for eye drops and tissues, a lot of us are wondering how seasonal allergies will affect our outdoor plans this weekend.

“Unfortunately, you need a good soaking rain to really clear things out, and although we have a little bit of a light rain chance late Friday, the pollen will stick around for the weekend,” 7News meteorologist Brian van de Graaff said.

Early-season allergies often caused by pollen from trees, such as oak, elm, birch, poplar or maple, are starting to diminish, but reactions to grasses and other plants follow right behind.

“Oak is the big offender,” van de Graaff said. “When we start seeing signs that it is coming to an end, its good news for us.”

In the metro area, oak accounted for 50% of the pollen produced. Once the oak catkin — the clusters of male flowers that hang from oak trees — drops and dries up, it is a sign that the tree pollen is “starting to wane,” van de Graaff said.

However, once the tree pollen levels go down, grass pollen will rise, he said, bringing little relief for those with pollen allergies.

Tree pollen average in 2024 is higher than average. (Courtesy United States Army Centralized Allergen Extract Laboratory)

“It’ll be a little cooler this weekend, so that may calm it down a bit, but for outdoor activities, particularly on Saturday when we’re in the low 70s, it will be a factor for you,” said van de Graaff, adding that temperatures could dip to the 30s on Sunday.

“But I still think if you’re outdoors this weekend, antihistamines would still be useful, particularly if those grasses are the ones that get you.”

While the light rain forecast for Friday might wash away pollen already on your car or outdoor furniture, it won’t clear it from the air: “Mother Nature’s not assisting us in giving us a full cleanse here,” van de Graaff said.

“It’s going to be a little bit of time before we get that big soaking rain, so our only hope now is that the tree pollen is starting to diminish,” van de Graaff said. “But, once again, other pollens are starting to take their place.”

Weekend forecast

Morning Clouds, Afternoon Sun
Highs: 68-73
Winds: Northwest 10-15+ mph
You’ll wake up to clouds, but skies will brighten throughout the day, as drier moves in behind a cold front. It will be a delightful Saturday afternoon for anything you have planned outdoors with low humidity, seasonable highs, and a refreshing northwesterly breeze. 

Mostly Cloudy
Highs: 59-64
Winds: Northwest 5-10 mph
Cooler than average temperatures will round out the weekend. Sunday morning will start off in the upper 30s to low 40s, so it will be a noticeably cooler/colder to start the day.  Afternoon highs will only reach the low 60s, which is below average. Sunday will be the first time in a week and a half with below average temperatures, so make sure to have a light jacket for your Sunday plans, especially in the morning. 

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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