There’s no denying it — pollen season is here. Yellow powder will likely cover cars and streets for the foreseeable future, but that’s just the price we pay in Seattle for such pretty scenery.
Some lucky ones may not immediately tear up outside like they’ve been binge-watching “This Is Us,” but we’re here to help the rest. Here’s our pollen-proof guide to making it through the season.
When the dust settles 🌳
So, what is the seasonal scourge, anyway? Pollen is a fine-to-coarse powder containing the reproductive cells of seed plants, floating through the air looking for a compatible pistil to land on and do its germinating thing. Locals should know:
- Tree pollen counts from varieties like birch, cedar, elm, cottonwood, and magnolia peak in the spring, followed by grass from May to June, and weed pollen that can last ‘til September.
- The good news is, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently named Seattle the least challenging city in the US to deal with allergies — mainly due to all the rain that washes away tree pollen (although it’s not so great during grass + weed season)
- The number to watch is the Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center’s pollen count, which is updated at 2 p.m. on weekdays. It recently ranked us at a “moderate” level.
- Cherry blossoms are not on the list of tree pollen troublemakers, so go ahead and visit the beautiful UW quad while they’re still in bloom.
Reading the count 📈
Pollen counts indicate the number of grains within a cubic meter of air. The higher the count, the more pollen swirling around.
The Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center’s pollen counts are represented on a scale of 1-20+.
- Low: 1-2.9
- Moderate: 3-9
- High: 10-20
- DEFCON 1: 20+
Common symptoms 🤧
- Itchy nose + eyes
- The National Institute of health has a guide on how to tell if your symptoms are allergies or potentially something more serious (one takeaway: allergy symptoms tend to go away when you’re no longer exposed to the cause)
Tips on breathing easy 💡
- Timing is everything — pollen counts tend to be higher between 10 a.m.-4 p.m., while lower at sunrise + sunset. The worst days are warm, breezy, and dry.
- Clean up after spending time outdoors, as pollen sticks to hair, clothes, and skin.
- Don’t ditch the face masks just yet — they can actually help prevent pollen from entering the nose and mouth, according to Dr. Jan Agosti, an infectious-disease specialist affiliated with UW Medicine.
- If symptoms persist or you feel could be COVID-related, don’t hesitate to take a test and talk to your doctor.