Atlanta/ Weather & Environment
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Published on April 02, 2024
Atlanta Grapples with Near-Record Pollen Counts as Allergy Sufferers Brace for ImpactSource: Wikipedia/W.carter, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta is under a yellow haze, and it's not just the burst of spring colors painting the town. The pollen count in the metro area has skyrocketed to 8,740, marking it the third-highest level ever recorded, as FOX 5 Atlanta reports. Allergy sufferers are on high alert, with mulberry, oak, pine, sweet gum, and sycamore trees being the primary culprits. Professionals are gearing up to face an influx of patients, both seasoned allergy victims and newcomers likely to feel the effects of this pollen surge.

The previous day wasn't too kind either, with the count surpassing 6,000. This year's pollen counts have consistently been hitting the extreme range; this is the eighth such instance. Despite the high numbers, it's the invisible pollens that tend to quickly trigger symptoms in allergy sufferers. "The yellowness that you see on your cars each and every day is not really an allergen, so it doesn't really affect you," Kim Norwood, a pollen count technician at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma, told 11Alive. "It's what you don't see that actually affects you."

Every day, technicians at Atlanta Allergy and Asthma start the meticulous process of counting pollen using a Rotorod device. The machine collects samples of the air's pollen and professionally trained technicians then carefully identify and count all variations under a microscope. Despite the absence of visibility of these allergens to the naked eye, this labor-intensive process is crucial for translating microscopic counts into daily pollen data which millions rely on.

The history of pollen counting in Atlanta dates back to the early 1980s and has since evolved from an internal medical tool to a widely disseminated piece of information. Dr. Christopher Chu, an allergist at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma, pointed out a worrying trend: "It's been starting earlier and lasting longer," he said in an interview with 11Alive. The allergy study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology indicated not just an increase in the start and length of the pollen season but also in its intensity. Climate Central's 2024 analysis aligns, showing that Atlanta's growing season has extended by 33 days since 1970. This extended season means allergy sufferers will likely have to brace themselves for longer periods of pollen-induced discomfort ahead.