LAKE MARY, Fla. - The Orlando region is known to be the No. 1 in many categories, from the best place to raise a family or most resorts per capita to the fastest growing city-region in Florida. But did you know that this week it's also the pollen capital of the United States?
Perhaps that's nothing to brag about unless you prefer brushing pollen from your car in February instead of digging it out after a snowstorm (folks up north this week would probably be willing to trade, considering the recent blizzards).
Indeed, while winter is still weeks away from releasing its icy grip across most of the South – months away from being finished up in the North – Central Florida's oak trees, junipers, elms, and even some grasses and weeds have opened up full bore, allowing our spring breezes to efficiently distribute the spores across the region.
The early season warmth is also driving relative humidity levels to their annual lows here in Florida, allowing the microscopic grains to loft light as a feather and travel far (up your nose).
While we are unfortunately not yet at peak pollen levels, there's certainly enough now to garner our notice as we reach for the eye drops! Those less than desirable weeks of extreme pollen are reserved from March through May. If that's not enough, Florida's pollen season spans close to ten months as various species, both domestic to exotic bloom in their ritual of reproduction.
Did you know that when you do see lots of pollen on the ground in late winter, it's most likely varieties of pine pollen? Their grains are much bigger and visible to the naked eye, but ironically, the least irritating or allergy-inducing in people.
It's the stuff you can't see, like oak pollen, that leads to the worse symptoms and reactions.
This season, like last, allergy sufferers may feel an added anxiety when symptoms onset, as variants of COVID-19 can present in much the same way. One may wonder if a simple sneeze is truly just allergies. Furthermore, as the humidity has yet to roll in and temperatures are perfect for opening windows of your home and your car, pollen is finding its way into every corner of your life -- like literally, every corner -- providing ample opportunities for many stuffy noses!
Ways to avoid it include the obvious: be sure to keep your house and car windows closed with the air conditioning running a new filter. Wash your face and hands to avoid further distribution of pollen grains onto your body. Something you may not have thought of is to change your clothes and take a hot shower. Otherwise, you may inadvertently carry the irritant on your person. Also, the steam in a shower will help "drop" any remaining microscopic pollen particles potentially suspended in your room's air, adding a floor-finding weight as water molecules bind with the grains.
But remember, while a pollen-induced allergy attack can make you feel pretty rotten if you think it's something else, be sure to contact your doctor.