03/30/12 — Pollen battle about at an end

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Pollen battle about at an end

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 30, 2012 1:46 PM

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Dale Hudson washes pollen off the side of his car at Hurry Clean Car Wash in Goldsboro. "It's the worst I have ever seen it," Hudson said.

Tammy Strickland looked out her bedroom window and took a deep breath.

"My heart just kinda sank," she said. "For me, it's the worst day of the year."

It was everywhere -- the annual blanket of yellow some celebrate as a reminder that spring has finally arrived, but the single mother has grown to lament.

"I thought about keeping the boys home from school. You know, locking them in the house," Ms. Strickland quipped. "But it wouldn't have done any good. No matter what you do, that stuff finds a way to get you."

Those who have grown up in eastern North Carolina are used to waking up one day in early April to find cars, streets -- essentially everything -- coated in pollen.

But this year, thanks to a particularly warm winter, the dusting came early, catching many Wayne County residents off guard.

Like Scott Crawford, who said he was "a little freaked out" by the sight of his black car speckled yellow.

"The year went by and I totally forgot about this crap," he said, looking back down at the bucket of soapy water he was using to clean off his convertible. "And that first day, like an idiot, I took it to get washed, forgetting that it was just gonna keep coming off those trees."


It starts with a Hail Mary -- pine trees trying to compensate for their inefficient pollination methods.

"The reason they produce so much is that they're wind-pollinated," said Karen Blaedow, the Cooperative Extension's horticulture agent. "So these trees produce this copious amount of pollen just hoping that the wind will send the pollen from one of the male cones and it will land on a female cone."

But the wind doesn't know a female cone from, say, a car.

"So there's always at least a two-week period where ... it's all over the place," she said. "But this year, it's a little earlier than normal. We usually see it in April. So maybe that's something that's throwing people off."


A prescription is called into Wayne Pharmacy for an antihistamine.

Then another.

And another.

"We've got a lot of orders coming in," pharmacist Ken Wiggins said. "Now, they don't put on the prescription what they're using it for, but (allergies) are what those drugs are primarily used for."

That isn't news to Ms. Strickland.

"We'll do the nasal spray and the antihistamines. We do it every year," she said. "Then I'll sweep the house and vacuum and wait for the rain. But I'll never get used to it. I wish I could just plan a vacation for this few weeks every year. I would love nothing better than to get away from this."

Looking to avoid pollen problems?

The National Association of Environmental Health Sciences says there are several steps you can take to minimize the effects.

* Avoid the outdoors from 5 to 10 a.m. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.

* Keep windows in your home and car closed. To keep cool, use air conditioners and avoid using window and attic fans.

* Be aware that pollen can also be transported indoors on people and pets.

* Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Otherwise pollen can collect on clothing and be carried indoors.

* Keep grass cut short.