Although Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter after he saw his shadow Feb. 2, spring allergies have already plagued Gainesville residents.
A University of Florida professor says the thick, yellow pollen coating cars isn’t going away any time soon.
UF professor Gary Peter said the large quantity and variety of trees paired with the diverse species in the southeast, especially in Gainesville, result in some of the most concentrated amounts of pollen in the country.
Peter, a professor in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, an extension of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said the weather has a lot to do with the concentration of pollen in the air this year.
“When it warms up quickly, (species) tend to shed earlier in the season than (they) would normally shed,” he said.
He also said last week’s low temperatures could extend how long the pollen sticks around, which potentially means an extended allergy season.
“We’re in a cold spell now, or at least (we are) at night,” he said. “That’s slowing it down. It may, in fact, extend the window just because of those cold nights.”
He said the “Cleary Pine” trees are the most dominant species in the area. They shed more than any other local tree, and they contribute the greatest abundance of pollen.
Kelly Aaronson, a 20-year-old UF health education and behavior sophomore, said the pollen in the air has been making her sick for weeks, even when she went home to Tallahassee.
When she first started experiencing a stuffy nose, a sore throat and a headache, she visited the doctor. At first, he thought it was just a virus. But when her symptoms weren’t relieved with time, he determined she was instead dealing with allergies.
“I’ve never had allergies before,” she said. “I have been taking allergy medicine, and it hasn’t been working at all.”
For Gainesville residents like Aaronson, avoiding pollen can be difficult. However, Peter had a few tips on how to help relieve the symptoms associated with pollen allergies.
He suggests those who suffer from allergies wear a face mask and stay inside more often. These individuals should hope for rain, which decreases the amount of pollen in the air. The rain also washes away large amounts of collected debris on cars, if only for a few hours.
Cyndee O’Quinn, a UF College of Journalism and Communications meteorologist, said the conditions in Gainesville over the next few days are conducive for high levels of pollen.
“Our forecast is going to be dry and then windy (Wednesday),” she said. “The higher winds are not good because it blows the pollen around more. … Now looking ahead for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’re still looking at some moderately high levels (of pollen).”