Sneezy weather on the wane

The dense clouds of pollen gusting through Atlanta will continue to agitate allergy sufferers in coming days, but relief is on the way.

The pollen count is extraordinarily high, but it's already dropped to half what it was last week when the thermometer soared and trees sprang from their winter slumber.

The amount of pollen in the air will likely drop to a low level by May, WSB chief meteorologist Glenn Burns told the AJC Monday. "But it's still going to be brutal for a lot of folks for the next week or two," he added.

Tuesday's pollen count was 2,351 particles per cubic meter of air, according to the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. That's down slightly from Monday's reading of 2,492.

The major pollens present in Tuesday's count were mulberry, oak, pine and sycamore.

Pollen starts to irritate people with allergies when the count reaches as little as 30. A count of 120 is considered "extremely high," according to the clinic.

Yet 2,492 seems reasonable when compared to the surge recorded last Wednesday, when the count soared to 5,733 and remained over 5,000 for another day. It dropped below 2,000 Friday, but Monday brought another surge.

The relief last week was brought by the rains on Thursday, Burns said. The unusually dry weather the rest of this spring has contributed to the sickening air, Burns said. That, and the abrupt shift from shivery temperatures to warm, and even hot, weather that triggered all the blooms, he said.

This year is worse than last year. The pollen count climbed over 2,000 only once in April 2009 -- on the 6th when it reached 3,583.

And it's the kind of pollen in the mix this week that is giving people itchy eyes and bouts of sneezing. The fine grit brown stuff -- from birch, oak, sycamore and other deciduous trees  -- irritates nasal passages in a way that the thicker, green pine pollen does not.

While there is pine pollen in the air, pollen from other trees is dominant, Burns said, and "pine pollen is so huge it really can't get into your nose."

Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this article.